Mark Reviews Movies

The Cured


3 Stars (out of 4)

Director: David Freyne

Cast: Sam Keeley, Ellen Page, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Stuart Graham, Paula Malcomson

MPAA Rating: R (for violence, bloody images, and language)

Running Time: 1:35

Release Date: 2/23/18 (limited)

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Review by Mark Dujsik | February 22, 2018

Most zombie stories only tease at the possibility of a cure. It's a hypothetical idea for the characters, who are convinced that there must be some hope for a resolution to the outbreak of undead, infected, or otherwise transformed flesh-eaters who were once human—their neighbors, their friends, their family members. Writer/director David Freyne's The Cured is a different kind of zombie film. Its story takes place after the outbreak, after the devastation, after a cure, and after the issue of infectious and murderous zombies has, for the most part, been resolved.

This is a story of the aftermath of a zombie outbreak, in which society is trying to rebuild, people are attempting to comprehend how to readjust to everyday life, and those who have been cured of the zombie infection find themselves labeled as outcasts for their actions while they were zombies. Freyne takes this unique spin on the zombie narrative to tell a story about social stigmas. The fictional here becomes political allegory of the broadest kind, in which the narrative feels relative to a slew of social and political issues, and the political is seen through the lens of a personal story about guilt, grief, anger, fear, and how to react to societal oppression.

The story follows Senan (Sam Keeley), who was infected when the outbreak reached Ireland about two years in the past. Since then, the entire country has been all but devastated. After the cure was discovered and used on the infected, they began to return to their normal states of mind and behavior. The side effects include a distinctive red mark on an eyeball and nightmares of what they did while infected.

A small percentage were resilient to the cure. While trying to determine what to do with those thousand or so poor souls, the government also has been reintroducing "the cured" to proper society in waves. Senan is part of the third wave.

The results have been mixed, to say the least. It's a controversial idea for the survivors of the outbreak, who aren't comfortable with the idea of men and women who killed countless people—including people they knew and loved—being put back into society. The argument is that the infected had no control over their actions—a sentiment that's repeated multiple times by the cured, who speak of being trapped in their own bodies, watching as they ripped and bit people to shreds, while being helpless to stop such behavior. Despite this, the cured are still observed with suspicion, which has led to a series of assaults on cured individuals and some suicides when the cured cannot acclimate to their new position as second-class citizens.

Because of the reluctance of family members or friends to have one of the cured living in their homes, most of the cured are sent to tenement housing and assigned menial jobs that mostly have to do with the containment of the infected. Their lives are essentially lived on parole, with members of a voluntary defense force making sure they're doing their jobs, checking in at the housing units, and not getting into any trouble.

Senan is somewhat of a unique case. His sister-in-law Abbie (Ellen Page), an American national and journalist, has agreed that Senan can live with her and her young son. Senan works for a scientist (played by Paula Malcomson) who's still trying to cure the resilient. He spends some time with his fellow cured zombie Conor (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor), who is growing increasingly angry about the treatment of the cured. Senan also has to wrestle with whether or not to tell Abbie that he's the reason she is a widow and her son is without a father.

There's a reason to describe so many specifics here. Freyne's screenplay creates a believable world with sound internal logic and oftentimes startling relevance. That's primarily because so much of this story has to do with the predictably depressing reaction to the reintegration of the cured. The film is at its best as a political allegory about society's suspicions of those who are different. In Conor, Freyne finds a character who reacts to his own oppression with equally depressing results.

The matter of the fate of the cure-resilient zombies becomes a major component here. There's no cure for them in sight. Senan learns that the zombies leave the cured alone, since the infection is still present in their bodies. Conor starts to see the infected as allies. At least, in his mind, they'll leave the cured alone—without curfews, forced labor, attacks, or other forms of open hostility or secret hatred. Senan wants a normal life. Conor believes such a thing is impossible, given the prejudice against the cured.

Despite its setup, this isn't a horror film. It's an intelligent study of characters attempting to adjust to grief, to guilt, and to a society that rejects them. At times, it plays as a political thriller, as Conor and other frustrated cured individuals try to get their grievances heard, while Senan tries to find his place and Abbie, who says she's sympathetic to the plight of the cured, investigates what's happening in Conor's rising movement.

Where the film falters is in its third act. Having established a credible world and characters who represent genuine ideas about the function of that world, Freyne seems uncertain of how to follow through on those elements until the end. The Cured pretty much dismisses its political and social concerns for a finale that relies entirely on action and chaos. For what it is, the resolution is effective, but after promising more with its setup, one can't help but be a bit disappointed by the film's descent into routine.

Copyright © 2018 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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