LONDON FILM FESTIVAL: THE CURED – David Freyne’s first feature – screened at Vue Leicester Square (14 OCT). Here’s our writeup.
THE CURED (2017, Ireland, 95min)
First time director David Freyne shows there’s plenty of life in the undead yet with a startling new horror film. THE CURED dares to ask: what would the return to normal life be like after a zombie outbreak has been tamed? What follows is a ruthless study of a society still in free fall as one terror is rapidly replaced by another. Human nature, it seems, is our own worst enemy.
The film is set six years after a zombie infestation has ravaged Europe. A cure has been found but it is only effective in 75% of those infected by the Maze Virus. The remaining 25% are resistant and constitute an ongoing humanitarian and political crisis. Chillingly, the cured remember everything from their infected state whilst those that survived the onslaught struggle to rationalise what happened (“What they did, I mean, how do you get over that?”).
“Is it nice to be back?”
Two friends – Senan (Sam Keeley) and Connor (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor) – are released from quarantine in the third wave of treated patients. They discover a society resentful of their presence and find within themselves very different responses to the prejudices they face. Senan tries to reintegrate with his sister-in-law (Ellen Page) whilst Connor is rejected by his father (“you’re a monster.”) and seeks comfort amongst the other former infected. Inevitable tensions spill over and a new fight for survival ensues.
On a very low budget, the filmmakers invest in what matters. World building is totally credible with compelling zombies – of the now familiar, fast-paced sort – and a detailed production design that recalls Gareth Edwards’ post-alien invasion movie, MONSTERS. The public health notices and other ambient traces of human catastrophe create an intensely claustrophobic world still tainted by disaster. Similarly, the sound design opens the film up enormously, stretching your imagination to screaming point (if, occasionally, shouting in your ear with too many blasts on the volume dial).
“It’s not your world anymore”
Filmed in Ireland, the scenes of running street battles and molotov cocktails have an unnerving resonance. Rather than looking backwards, Freyne’s allegory speaks to more contemporary issues such as the resettlement of immigrants and the foul stench of far right demagogues. It’s common for calling card first timers to dodge genres in search of social commentary, so it’s refreshing to hear Freyne commit in the post-screening Q&A: “It has to work first and foremost as a horror film”. And it does.
Our hunt for adventurous moving pictures includes an eternal hope that we will see something new. Given the recent infestation of zombie films and their hybrids, the bar here isn’t set very high. Fortunately, THE CURED’s ferocious pack animals deliver the goods. Their blood-stained feral behaviours include an ‘at rest’ state that will pollute your nightmares. Along the way, THE CURED creates many such unsettling images and ambitiously extends the zombie mythos. It left us thrilled.
HUNGRY FOR MORE?
- Find THE CURED on IMDB.
- THE CURED screened in the CULT strand of the 61st BFI London Film Festival: “From the mind-altering and unclassifiable to fantasy, sci-fi and horror”. Read our other festival writeups here.
Featured images: THE CURED (2017).