Those familiar with Dominic Mitchell’s BBC TV series In the Flesh may encounter a touch of déjà vu while watching The Cured. It’s more than just the matching premise – cured ‘zombies’ being reintegrated into a society unwilling to forget their mindless misdoings – it’s in the kitchen sink quality, the politics, the gloomy tone and saturated aesthetic. There’s even overlap in homoerotic subtexts. A first feature by writer-director David Freyne, The Cured has a broader scope but mixed results by virtue of it.
It’s a neat move on Freyne’s part to set his zombie not-quite-apocalypse aftermath drama in Ireland. Sociopolitical parallels to the Troubles are, of course, inevitable, whilst the tensions of a fractured community feel all too plausible in its execution. One part human drama, one political allegory, and a third pure horror, The Cured has more to say than can be in ninety minutes but makes an admirable attempt regardless.
Sam Keeley is Senan Browne, one of the seventy-five per cent of Maze Virus sufferers to have been cured. Whilst the Irish government debate what should be done with the infected quarter who cannot be cured, Senan goes to live with his sister-in-law Abigail (Ellen Page), a Canadian journalist barred from returning home because her son was born in Ireland. Whilst the liberally-minded Abbie accepts that the infected were not of sound mind when they murdered her husband, many louder citizens are not so forgiving.
Another among the cured is Conor (Infinity War’s Tom Vaughan-Lawlor), a former barrister and would-be politician, who is rejected by his family and downgraded to a career in street-cleaning on recovery. What separates Senan and Conor, other than familial rejection, is that the latter experiences none of the nightmares that plague the former. You see, the miracle cure has a catch – the cured remember their infected crimes. It is not without irony that they are called, in one scene, ‘the lucky ones’. Conor, however, has no regrets, is not haunted and feels only outrage at the ways in which the cured are treated by the populace.
With regard to the uninfected, it is hard to quite resolve whether it is Freyne’s script which lacks nuance or the human race itself. Whilst their emotions and reactions are plausible, their protestations – ‘They’re not human anymore as far as I’m concerned’ – don’t quite ring true. Indeed, throughout the film, such one-note dialogue peppers the action with a distracting implausibility. A throbbing soundtrack similarly robs much of the effect.
It’s a pity; there is much to admire here and even more to intellectually engage. Perhaps, The Cured is overambitious. It certainly feels consumed by an abundance of ideas but it is a meaty and provocative entity, brought our well by sombre performances by Page and Keeley all the same. Likewise, if there’s not quite enough depth to Conor it is not for want of solid work from Vaughan-Lawlor.
Tense and unsettling throughout, and with splashes of gore, The Cured is commendably ambitious but somewhat unfulfilled.