19th Mar2018

Glasgow Film Festival 2018: ‘The Cured’ Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Sam Keely, Ellen Page, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Paula Malcomson, Stuart Graham, Oscar Nolan, David Herlihy, Peter Campion, Hilda Fay, Lesley Conroy, Natalia Kosfrzewa, Barry McGovern | Written and Directed by David Freyne

Cured-TIFF-Poster

The brainchild of Irish writer-director David Freyne, this powerful and provocative post-zombie flick offers a fresh take on the genre, making it a must-see for genre fans.

Based on Freyne’s related 2014 short The First Wave, The Cured opens in Dublin, in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse, where a scientist (Paula Malcomson) has found an antidote that has cured 75% of the infected. The remaining 25% have been locked away while the scientist refines the formula, while the former infectees – known as the cured – have attempted to return to their former lives, only to be met with anger and suspicion.

Sam Keely plays Senan, one of the cured, who’s let out of a government containment facility and goes to live with his American sister-in-law Abbie (Ellen Page, who also produced) and young nephew Cillian (Oscar Nolan). However, like all the cured, Senan retains the memories of the things he did while infected and he finds himself unable to tell Abbie the truth about how his brother died. Meanwhile, former barrister / politician Conor (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor) – who held sway over Senan when they were both zombies – is incensed at the treatment of the cured and foments a violent underground resistance movement.

Freyne’s script feels bracingly original, despite its surface similarities to TV’s In The Flesh. As epitomised by Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, the best zombie films have always lent themselves to allegorical interpretation and Freyne pulls off a nifty trick of having two simultaneous readings in play at once (Romero would surely approve). The more obvious of the two is the parallel to Northern Ireland’s troubles (the zombie virus is even known as the Maze virus, after the prison), but there are also echoes of the AIDS crisis, and in particular the stigma faced by those who still live with the HIV virus. (It’s never explicitly stated, but Senan and Conor are both coded as gay and Conor’s rejection by his father would fit easily into a film about a bigoted family struggling with their son’s sexuality).

In addition, The Cured plays complex and provocative games with the audience’s sympathies, to the point where this is one of the few zombie films where you find yourself siding with the infected (even the uncured ones). On a similar note, Conor’s character arc is handled extremely well, with the audience fully on his side in his early scenes.

Keely is superb in the lead role, playing Senan as a man paralysed by guilt, grief and self-hatred, all three of which are exacerbated by his complex relationship with Conor. Page is equally good, playing Abbie as warm-hearted and compassionate, which results in powerful emotional tension as we wait for Senan’s secret to be revealed. And Vaughan-Lawlor is terrific as Conor, exuding a sinister intensity that really gets under your skin.

Freyne’s direction is excellent throughout, maintaining tight control of the tone and proving himself as adept at quiet, emotional scenes as he is at full-on zombie mayhem (these are the angry, running kind, as seen in 28 Days Later). The film is further heightened by Piers McGrail’s gloomy cinematography and a suitably atmospheric score from Rory Friers and Naill Kennedy, as well as some impressive production design work, which does a fine job of convincing, detailed world-building on a relatively low budget.

Chilling, provocative and rich in thematic resonance, The Cured is an impressively made and superbly acted zombie thriller that marks out Freyne as a serious talent to watch.

**** 4/5

The Cured is released in UK cinemas from 11 May 2018 and on DVD and Digital from 14 May 2018

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