A Dublin-based zombie film set in the aftermath of a contagious outbreak, after a cure has been discovered, is the intriguing concept behind David Freyne’s debut feature. It’s a daring move to tackle the well-worn zombie-apocalypse genre in your first film but Freyne establishes an enticing set-up which focuses on the discrimination ‘the cured’ face after being reintroduced into society. This promising premise makes The Cured’s visual and narrative blandness all the more depressing.
The highly-infectious ‘Maze virus’ has left Ireland in turmoil. But, an antidote has cured 75 percent of the diseased, leaving 25 percent still infected and safely locked up in containment prisons. The film focuses on Senan (Sam Keeley) who’s being reintegrated into society after recovering from the vicious, cannibalistic virus. Senan is taken in by his widowed sister-in-law Abbie (Ellen Page) and her young child. He lands a job as a hospital porter, assisting Dr Lyons (Paula Malcolmson) in perfecting an antidote for the remaining 25 percent of ‘Resistants’. Ex-barrister Connor (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor), Senan’s fellow patient and friend, doesn’t receive such a warm welcome. He’s shunned by his father and forced to live in guarded dormitories – performing menial tasks under the watchful eye of Cantor (Stuart Graham), a violent army officer. Many of ‘the cured’ are haunted by the memories of their savage, undead behaviour whilst the majority of the population still see them as monsters. Senan suffers severely from these disturbingly vivid flashbacks and is stricken with guilt at the murderous secret he’s keeping from Abbie. As tensions in Ireland rise, Connor leads a fierce uprising and drags Senan into the revolt with him.
There’s certainly a good film in here somewhere, but this sadly isn’t it. Visually, The Cured is pedestrian and insipid. There’s nothing new or eye-catching to the camerawork and the aesthetic is murky and dull consisting mostly of brownish-grey tones. While the film is constricted by a limited budget, it’s still disappointing how few visual risks are taken on such an alluring idea. The Cured does nothing of interest with its imaginative concept and the narrative drags towards a generic, unrewarding finale. In an attempt to keep the audience engaged, The Cured uses a staggering amount of deafening, lazy jump scares which only have the effect of disconnecting us further.
The Cured does manage to elicit some timely, present-day parallels as it explores the discrimination faced by ‘the cured’ minority. Ellen Page also puts in a lively, engaging performance and the film’s best scenes involve her subtle expressions of emotion. But, unfortunately, this isn’t enough to stop the film feeling like a missed opportunity that’s marred by tiresome storytelling, visual lifelessness and an over-reliance on cheap jump scares.