The Cured (Movie Review)

The Cured (Movie Review)
8 10

PLOT: The world tries to carry on after a zombie-making virus has been cured, but the formerly infected find it hard to reintegrate into society.

REVIEW: No matter what, writer/director David Freyne's THE CURED (which was originally announced with the title THE THIRD WAVE) is going to be known as "the Ellen Page zombie movie", so let's start off by looking at it as an Ellen Page vehicle. As you ponder what an Ellen Page zombie movie might be like, you'll probably wonder - is this "slumming it Page", where she shows up in things like the recent FLATLINERS reboot, or is this "prestige Page", where she does stuff she gets accolades and award nominations for? Thankfully, this one fits into the latter category - this isn't Page simply working her way through an outbreak movie that's chasing some of that Walking Dead runoff. Freyne clearly recognizes the George A. Romero roots of the zombie sub-genre, where you can use the concept of zombies as the foundation for some social commentary. Sometimes it's fun to watch a zombie movie that's simply about munching guts, but it's also nice to see zombie movies that dig a little deeper.

Freyne first delved into the concepts featured in THE CURED with a 2014 short film called THE FIRST WAVE. He has said that the idea first occurred to him while he was watching the Will Smith-led Richard Matheson adaptation I AM LEGEND, but the film THE CURED most strongly brought to mind for me was 28 DAYS LATER. It has a similar set-up, with a virus called the Maze Virus spreading across Europe, the infected falling into a violent psychosis and turning to cannibalism. (I know there are horror fans who will say I shouldn't even be using the term "zombie" for these things, but I have a broader definition of zombie - rotting or raging, they're zombies to me, and THE CURED is widely considered to be a zombie movie.) But this isn't the story of the outbreak or the days of mayhem. This is the aftermath, after a cure has been discovered that has a 75% success rate.

As the title gives away, THE CURED is about the people who were once flesh-eating zombies but have been cured and rehabilitated. It's a very interesting approach to take, made all the more intriguing by the fact that the cured have complete memory of what they did during their time as rage cannibals. The film centers on one cured person in particular, Sam Keeley as Senan, who spent four years as one of the infected and is now plagued by terrible nightmares / flashbacks. While the authorities decide what to do with the 25% of the infected who can't be cured, those who have been cured are being reintegrated into society in waves.

Reintegration is essentially handled like convicts being paroled, with regular check-ins with a military representative required. The public's reaction is a reflection of the real world refugee crisis, with some people fearing that the cured are dangerous. Senan is welcomed into the home of his brother's widow Abbie - this is where Ellen Page comes in. Abbie is an American living in Ireland, the country that was especially devastated by the outbreak. She has a young son who was born in Ireland, which is why she hasn't been able to go back to the US. They're only letting in uninfected people who were born in the states.

And so we follow Senan, Abbie, and another cured man, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor as Conor - who has been rejected by his surviving family - as they deal with this messed up situation they find themselves in. Much like it would be if Senan and Conor were refugees or if they were men returning from combat with PTSD, THE CURED is primarily a low-key, serious drama. The touches of horror come in through the nightmares, and through the job Senan gets working among the infected. Keeley, Page, and Vaughan-Lawlor are given some very heavy material to deal with, and they carry it quite capably, but so much of the film consists of them sadly discussing what they've been through and are going through, some viewers might begin to feel anxious for some action.

Of course, this is all building up to everything falling apart. It wouldn't be a satisfying viewing experience if it was just people talking themselves into happiness. Tensions rise, certain characters become very creepy and threatening, relationships crumble, a cured support group becomes a group of revolutionaries... and you can probably predict what happens in the climax. It was exactly what I expected to happen.

Predictable action or not, THE CURED is a very intelligent, well made film that features some great actors. I appreciated that Freyne took the social commentary route and took the material so seriously. If you don't buy into the drama, you're going to find the film to be a slog, but if you go along for the ride it does build up to some exciting payoff.

And you get to see Ellen Page hit a zombie with an axe.

Extra Tidbit: IFC Midnight is releasing THE CURED into theatres and on VOD February 23rd.



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