Infectious outbreak is something humanity has always shared a collective fear for, and unfortunately is something we can all relate to a little too much lately. The zombie film is a genre that has been done from every angle, cut and pasted, rearranged in so many different ways. From the lumbering undead in George A Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, to frantic zombies like in Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later. So much has been done that even genre mashups are popular in zombie films, with the self-titled zom-rom-com of Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead or the lackluster zombie-drama Maggie staring Arnold Schwarzenegger. While the previous title fell flat, David Freyne’s take on the same combination soared with his debut film The Cured.
A virus known as The Maze has swept Europe, with Ireland taking the biggest hit, turning those with it into ravenous zombie-like creatures. With a cure found, 75% of those infected have been treated and returned to society, while the other 25% remain resistant. What they don’t advertise is that the cured remember everything they did while infected, even though they were not in control. The film takes place in the aftermath, the last round of the cured returned to society and the government faced with the decision of what to do with the resistant bunch. The story follows Senan, a young man who was turned in the presence of his brother Luke while in search of family, who comes home to stay with his sister-in-law Abbie and her son Cillian. As in any drama there is an unspoken tension and source of conflict, in this case it’s that Senan accidentally killed his brother upon being turned and has yet to tell Abbie. Connected to Senan’s storyline is the response of the public to the virus. Mostly the public is outraged, slandering the cured by calling them monsters and shunning them from returning to life as it was before for something outside of their control. An underground uprising begins to form of cured who are finished being treated like animals and, without giving too much away, they plot to send a message to the government seeking to eliminate them.
Now, I know what you’re thinking… a horror flick mixed with a drama? No thank you. Where I would normally agree, this film convinced me otherwise. What works so well in this case is that the horror and drama are intertwined, drama propels the horror and at times is the source of the scares itself. It may fall into the zombie category, but really this is a story about a group of people attempting to find some normalcy after being condemned as ‘other’ by their fellow citizens. It’s as if Freyne took the main public response to any human otherness and used it as allegory for how the cured are treated, from the common fate of former convicts only landing low paying labor intensive jobs to violent acts being carried out on a group of people for something deemed unaccepted by society (like race and gender). Every marker of outrage is hit, on both sides of the argument. Although this was released around three years ago, it’s impact is greater today considering the similarities both in the current pandemic as well as the governments response, the irony is certainly not missing.
An important thing to note here is that this is not an American production but rather Irish, and because of that it reads a little differently. This mostly means that if you go into viewing this with an expectation of a neatly packaged resolution topped with a bow, you will most likely be disappointed. American cinema, although definitely not always the case, is hallmarked for leaving the audience with questions answered. In indie or foreign cinema, that trait is not always mirrored as often. The Irish film industry has further established an international footing in the last decade, which is young when considering the expansive history of film. Because of this fewer films have seen the US market especially when compared to even British productions. While Irish made films are still working their way to our screens, the scenery is something much more widely recognized and is prevalent in The Cured. A rainy washing of blue, grey, and green hues surround cobblestone and brick, giving the film a dreary yet nurturing feel. The setting allows the viewer to feel a connection to the isolation that can exist on the island, and when combined with a dramatic score gives the film body in portraying its themes. Among the chaos, there is beauty.
The Cured manages to approach two genres simultaneously that could so quickly become overdone or cheesy, yet nails it entirely. Yes, some of the dialogue can get a little ahead of itself but overall the tone and approach of the film flows easily. It’s quick in pace and sends its message clearly, delivering the perfect amount of horror or unease at just the right moments. I went into this expecting just another adaptation of a zombie plot, and left pleasantly surprised at the refreshing spin on a familiar story with a real message to fortify it.
Available to stream now on Hulu!