The Cured (2017) ☆☆☆(3/4): After a zombie epidemic

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Bringing some fresh and interesting ideas to its horror genre. “The Cured” rises a bit above many other zombie movies. Yes, zombie movies are dime a dozen these days, but the movie presents a compelling social/political drama to engage us while also giving us a fair share of raging zombies as required, and I was constantly entertained by its mood and ideas as gradually being unnerved by what may happen to its weary hero and a few people he cares about.

The main background of the movie is Dublin, Ireland, which has recovered bit by bit from a global zombie virus epidemic at the beginning of the story. Unlike many other countries in the world, Ireland was hit very hard by this epidemic, but, fortunately, the cure for the virus was developed in time, and many of cured people have been released since that point.

However, as shown from the early scenes of the movie, things have not been that easy for “the Cured”. While the public opinion on them is not very positive due to what they did while they were infected, and they also remember that too well even after being completely cured. When Senan (Sam Keeley) is about to be released, he is still haunted by what he committed while he was in that rabid sate beyond his control, and his only comfort comes from Conor (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor), a fellow Cured who also feels nervous and uncertain about what he is going to do with his changed status.

At least, they are lucky compared to the remaining infected people somehow resistant to the cure. These infected people are all incarcerated in maximum security prisons, and the government has considered eliminating them all for public security and health despite the protest from Dr. Lyons (Paula Malcomson), who has tried to develop a better cure because of a personal reason to be revealed later.

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As a part of his rehabilitation process, Senan begins to work under Dr. Lyons, and he comes to learn that he is safe with the infected, who instinctively recognize the Cured and do not attack them. As this reminds him more of his former state, he feels more guilt and trauma while remembering again and again when he killed his older brother not long after getting infected. Sure, he was helpless in that uncontrollable madness, but that terrible moment remains stuck somewhere in his brain, and that is another burden he may deal with for the rest of his life besides the continuing hostility toward to him and many other cured people.

In case of Abbie (Ellen Page), the wife of Senan’s brother, she is sympathetic to Senan’s ongoing struggle, and she even allows him to stay with her and her young son. As being grateful to her kindness, Senan gets closer to her and her young son, and we see a certain possibility among them, but there remains one problem; he has not told her yet that he was responsible for her husband’s death, and he is understandably reluctant to confess that to her.

Meanwhile, the movie also pays some attention to Conor’s own struggle – and how he comes to be more radical and extreme. He was once a promising barrister who was elected as a new councilman right before the epidemic, but now he is stuck in his pariah status with no bright future, and there is a hurtful moment when he is flatly rejected by his own father. As getting more frustrated and exasperated, he comes to decide to do something about the current status of him and many other cured people, and he soon begins to form an underground group along with them.

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As Conor and his group resort to more violence while clashing with policemen and soldiers, the movie clearly evokes that violent period which shook Northern Ireland for years, and it gives us several tense moments later in the story. There is a brief but intense scene where the incarcerated infected people get driven into their tantrums, and then there is a disturbing flashback moment which reveals more about the relationship between Senan and Conor. While pulled toward Conor’s extremism, Senan also feels more conflict as caring more about Abbie and her young son, and the movie later presents an unsettling moment when its three main characters happen to be together at one point.

Of course, everything eventually culminates to a climactic part which throws lots of zombie people into the screen, but director/writer David Freyen keeps holding our attention as focusing on his characters as before, and its somber finale is effective on the whole. He and cinematographer Piers McGrail did a good job of establishing the palpable sense of uncertainty and nervousness around the characters in the film, and I also enjoyed myriad details reflecting that chaotic time caused by the epidemic.

The performers are convincing in their respective roles. Sam Keeley is quietly harrowing whenever his character struggles with his memories of violence, and Ellen Page, who also participated in the production of the film, appropriately dials down her perky presence. Tom Vaughan-Lawlor is increasingly menacing with his tightly wounded attitude which weirdly reminded me of Dr. Hannibal Lector during his first scene in “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991), and Paula Malcomson and Stuart Graham are also solid in their supporting performance.

As I said many times before, I have been tired of zombie movies during recent years, but I am ready to enjoy good ones nonetheless whenever I come across them, and “The Cured” is certainly one of such nice cases. Some of you may complain that there are not enough zombies in the film, but the result is more engaging than expected as coupled with interesting elements, and I think you should give a chance to this modest but satisfying zombie movie.

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