Director: David Freyne
Cast: Sam Keeley, Ellen Page, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Paula Malcomson
Watch The Cured online in the UK: iTunes / Amazon Instant Video / TalkTalk TV / Virgin Movies / eir Vision Movies / Rakuten TV / Google Play
The Cured, the debut feature from writer-director David Freyne, is a horror film that doesn’t end as well as it starts. But it does start very well, in part, because it’s blessed by a killer premise.
It’s a simple, but pretty unfamiliar, story hook for the often stale zombie genre. While the majority of zombie fiction showcases protagonists dealing with the horror of loved ones turning into cannibalistic monsters, The Cured, bar a few flashbacks, deals purely with the aftermath. Freyne imagines a world in which what creates a zombie outbreak is definitely a virus, and one for which a cure has been found and successfully tested on a significant portion of the infected population. A minority aren’t responding to the antidote, but they’ve all been rounded up for further testing.
The bigger problem posited is this: you can give the infected an injection and they’re theoretically all hunky dory, but how do the masses deal with the previously bloodthirsty being eased back into standard society, albeit under the strict supervision of military muscle? And how do the cured handle their own trauma, given that they can remember what they did? The body may be healed, but the mind is still plagued.
Senan (Sam Keeley), is one of the cured re-entering society in Dublin – while the virus spread to many countries, Ireland was the one worst affected by the crisis. Unlike many of the returned facing rejection from their former families, he at least has a home. His brother died in the chaos, but his surviving sister-in-law Abbie (Ellen Page), an American journalist, and nephew welcome him into their house.
Senan’s friend in rehabilitation, Conor (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor), is less fortunate. Once a prominent lawyer, he’s pushed into sanitation work by the government restrictions placed upon him, while his remaining family reject him. Disenfranchised, he seeks to enlist Senan and other ostracised members of the cured to form an insurrectionist group, to reignite past tensions for political aspirations. Not to spoil the last act of the film, but the last glimpse we see of Conor onscreen, and the context for it, provide a sinister sting to the film’s final moments. And while Keeley and Page do fine work, it’s Vaughan-Lawlor who is the film’s chilling MVP.
Freyne’s world-building is one of the other highlights, with allusions to Ireland’s past and present never coming across as exploitative in their application to the various allegories at work. The virus is labelled the ‘Maze Virus’, an apparent reference to the Maze Prison in Northern Ireland, while Molotov cocktails and pipe bombs are among the weapons used in the clashes with militarised police.
It all eventually devolves into a familiar barrage of zombie dystopia beats that, while hardly poorly executed, aren’t nearly as compelling as the build-up to them. However, in terms of evocative use of place in a horror film about the undead or infected, The Cured is probably the best example since the opening scenes of 28 Days Later.