David Freyne / Ireland / 2017 / 95 mins
As part of Glasgow Film Festival
Zombie movies are a much-maligned thing. The genre is over-saturated with movies, television shows, video games, remakes, reboots, parodies and everything in between. So when a fresh take on the genre comes along, it’s worthy of some attention. If that so-called “fresh take” happens to be a good film, then even better. Then the kicker: is it scary? Thankfully for horror fans, The Cured most certainly is.
Taking place in a post-zombie Ireland, David Freyne’s debut feature film is brimming with ideas and allegories that make it much more than your standard undead picture. The country has been devastated by a disease that turned people into ravaging, rabid monsters, until (some years after the dawn of such a nightmare) a cure is found and 75% of the infected have been saved. Things aren’t all easy going for these folk, however, as they can still remember their own atrocities and the wider society doesn’t want to let them forget, either.
Sam Keeley plays our protagonist, the cured Senan, who is taken in by his sister-in-law Abbie (Ellen Page) as he tries to reintegrate himself into a community that doesn’t want him. As he wrestles with intolerance, fear and his own personal demons, he finds himself struggling for a simpler life and fighting to keep his family safe. Tom Vaughan-Lawlor’s Conor, on the other hand, is our antagonist, single-minded on how society must evolve: The Cured need to fight back against the bigotry through their own paramilitary factions.
Iconography from the Irish troubles unsurprisingly turns up, as Freyne’s screenplay toys with the idea of the heartlessness of war; “There are always casualties,” posits Conor to his growing band of followers, who appear just as cruel in health as in sickness.
Whilst occasionally the film’s politics are on the nose (and then some), it’s incredibly refreshing to find a horror film which has bigger concepts to play with. This doesn’t always mash as well as the movie would like – occasional doses of black comedy can be jarring, for example – but it’s a damn fine attempt. And then there’s the horror itself. When Freyne puts his mind to it, he is perfectly capable of building an unnerving sense of dread. To manage this in a zombie film largely bereft of zombies is no mean feat. The Cured isn’t a normal zombie film – and it’s all the better for it.