Dir: David Freyne
The zombie movie is a subgenre with a well established set of cliches. Those can be done poorly, they can be done well, but it’s not frequently that anyone brings a truly new idea to the table. Credit is due The Cured for having at least one original idea that opens up new avenues to explore in zombie cinema. Unfortunately it does less with it than you’d hope.
In Ireland, the Maze virus has devastated the population, turning swathes of people into zombie like creatures. There is hope though, a cure has been found that has treated approximately 75% of cases, curing the rage and bloodlust, making the cured immune to further infection, but leaving them with the memories of what they did while they were infected. Slowly being returned to society, the Cured are largely rejected. As part of the third wave of returnees Senan (Sam Keeley) moves back in with his sister in law Abby (Ellen Page), he’s trying to reintegrate, but Connor (Tom Vaughn-Lawlor), Senan’s friend from quarantine, is trying to him to join a group of Cured planning to fight back against their treatment and the planned killing of the 25% of apparently incurable infected.
The central idea of The Cured is genuinely interesting. I can recall seeing films featuring attempts to treat zombies before, but never one that examined the idea of what would happen if that treatment were effective. The political side of the film has some potentially powerful parallels in how we view other ‘outsiders’ in society with fear. It feels especially relevant to the idea of how prisoners are treated and try to cope after their release. Sadly, it’s all a bit blunt and what starts out as quite a refreshing idea ends up being depicted through rather cliche imagery before descending into little more than the umpteenth riff on 28 Days Later.
The performances are all fairly solid. Sam Keeley has an effective melancholy as Senan, holding in a secret about the things he did while he was infected and Tom Vaughn-Lawlor makes for a forceful, if decreasingly complex, villain. Ellen Page is oddly cast, but she’s got some strong moments, never more so than when Abby confronts Senan about that secret. It’s also fun seeing her cut loose with an axe towards the end of the film, I wish she’d been a bit more involved in the action.
David Freyne does what he can with a limited budget, but those constraints are visible, particularly in how frequently the film cuts away, rather than spend on what could be quite an expensive gore effect. The grimy look isn’t unfamiliar from other recent zombie films, but Freyne finds some memorably bleak shots and, tonally, gives the film an admirable viciousness that goes along with its dystopian outlook.
The Cured doesn’t break as much new ground as it would like to, but it has capable performances and some new ideas, even if it doesn’t expand on them entirely satisfyingly.