Studio: IFC Films
Director: David Freyne
Writer: David Freyne
Producer: Rachael O’Kane, Rory Dungan, Ellen Page
Stars: Ellen Page, Sam Keeley, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Paula Malcomson, Stuart Graham, Oscar Nolan, Peter Campion, Hilda Fay, David Herlihy
Years after a deadly outbreak devastated the country, Ireland struggles to reintegrate cured zombies back into society.
You know that scene in almost every zombie movie, where a survivor refuses to shoot an undead loved one? Desperately clinging to hope that the contagion could be reversible, he or she irrationally insists that the monster is still human inside.
“The Cured” imagines what a post-outbreak setting might look like if such a solution really did exist. It turns out to be almost as bleak of a picture as a world overrun by infected, albeit in a way that is heartbreaking rather than horrific.
Several years after Europe’s Maze Virus devastated Ireland, a cure was created. So were two knock-on problems. Although ‘The Cured’ are no longer afflicted, they retain vivid memories of every violent act committed while consumed by uncontrollable psychosis. It’s a coin flip if they truly have it better than ‘The Resistants.’ They are the 5,000 people who didn’t take to the cure, and are still held in quarantine while the government debates what to do.
Ireland isn’t taking reintegration of the Cured altruistically. Driven by fears of a relapse and frustration over forgiveness for mindless murders, public outcry demands that the Cured be regarded as harshly as anyone still infected.
That’s the simmering situation facing Senan, who has been released to return home to his sister-in-law Abbie and her young son Cillian, who have no idea what Senan really did to his brother Luke while infected. Elsewhere, Senan’s friend Conor returns to a father who refuses to see him. The former barrister is also forced to take a job as a common custodian, further fueling an entitlement fire that has Conor seeing society as an enemy intent on oppressing the Cured.
With the military’s boot on his neck too, Conor rallies allies into an underground resistance group. Senan’s job with a doctor determined to cure the Resistants offers him an outlook of optimism. With the uninfected demanding action and the government threatening extermination, boiling tempers pit conflicting perspectives in fierce opposition as each faction readies for retaliation.
What’s the worse poison: the virus infecting a body’s bloodstream or xenophobic fears manipulating mindsets? Like every good zombie story, “The Cured” understands that substance comes from commentary, not from carnage. An allegory for everything from PTSD and an angry citizenry awaiting returning war veterans to politically charged racial conflicts, “The Cured” tells a tale of paranoia and prejudice influencing ideas while dividing people according to imagined ideals.
Although the climax speeds headfirst into “28 Days Later” ferocity, which is the only point where the movie delves deeply into derivative territory, “The Cured” predominantly remains a quiet drama tinged with tension from teased suspense. Clashes are clearly coming across multiple fronts. But “The Cured” invests its currency in intimacy. Writer/director David Freyne’s interests lay in illustrating how structure staves off collapse in the wake of unfathomable catastrophe. Meanwhile, individuals work on reconciling with each other, either through compassionate understanding or inflamed animosity.
This thematic exploration is thoughtful, emotional, and intriguing. It’s also not in a hurry, which is why anyone lured by an inference of typical undead action won’t see expectations satisfied. “The Cured” isn’t that kind of movie. In fact, it’s only disappointing when it tries to be.
Pop scares are included, though you can almost smell how much they don’t want to be. Jolts come off as marking a contractually obligated checkbox for scary movie criteria. Freyne then moves on quickly, getting back to the interpersonal interactions that actually power the movie’s gears.
Not to make it into an international competition, but British TV series “In the Flesh” and Canadian thriller “The Returned” (review here) made a deeper impact using setups similar to Irish-born “The Cured.” “In the Flesh” had the benefit of multiple episodes to develop its arcs. “The Returned” arguably asked more about morality through the wider scope of its reintegration scenario.
“The Cured” purposefully contains itself to more manageable fiction. Shambling corpses aren’t running amok across a global wasteland. By the movie’s math, Ireland bore the brunt of the outbreak with only 20,000 total infected. This makes the premise realistically relatable, though it does quell the fear factor by lessening immediate danger somewhat.
Again, that’s because “The Cured” aims to dissect governmental and personal politics, not showcase frightened residents hiding in basements. Even narrowed to that focus, “The Cured” still encounters curious difficulty in giving its four main characters all of the highlights they earn.
Sam Keeley certainly evokes all of the unspoken turmoil necessary for making Senan a tragically sympathetic person. Ellen Page gets by mostly on her natural performance power. A few scenes call on Page to channel tears, shouts, and shock, though with almost any other actress, the underwritten part would crumple from having too little to do. The script tasks Paula Malcomson with even less. Her highly important yet infrequently appearing character seems snipped from a more robust role intended for a more intricate movie.
Tom Vaughan-Lawlor impresses as Conor, although he doesn’t make for an overly enigmatic yin to Keeley and Page’s yang. Conor is definitely villainous in the vaguely disconcerting way required. He is also pitiable and always compelling as a character. Yet there is an x-factor needed to take his complexities to an unmistakably memorable level.
“The Cured” compensates shortcomings with its overall maturity. Focusing on the ramifications of reconstruction provides fascinatingly fresh perspective on zombie fiction. “The Cured” may not be the perfect panacea for rejuvenating the subgenre as a whole. But it makes for a highly compelling start.
Review Score: 65