A mass zombie outbreak that devastated Ireland has been quelled after a cure was found. Those infected can be turned back into human, but at the cost of them retaining the memories of what they did. The remaining 20% of zombies immune to the cure are being rounded up, while those cured are being reintegrated into society despite mass hatred and distrust. Senan (Sam Keeley) moves in with his sister-in-law Abbie (Ellen Page) and her son, having to hide the fact that he killed his brother when turned. He keeps a friendship with other cured man Conor (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor). As anti-cured sentiments grow more severe, Senan sees himself coerced by Conor to retaliate and fight for their rights.
The Cured is the feature debut of Irish filmmaker David Freyne. It’s been gaining some buzz for being arguably the first zombie movie set entirely in Ireland. On top of all that, it has a killer premise that’s actually played out in a fascinating, probing way. What if zombies could be cured, and how would society react to them? Predictably, it’s a reaction of prejudice, and while some of it can be a little heightened, it captures the nuances and causative effects of socially-bred hatred in a way that feels authentic.
It doesn’t marry itself to exactly what it is a stand-in for (like how the X-Men movies are a thinly-veiled metaphor for LGBT rights). It could be inspired by various struggles, like racial rights, or disability/certain illnesses like the AIDS crisis, or even the take inspiration from our own tumultuous history. I think this fluidity helps the story out and makes it feel distinctive-this struggle feels real, despite us never actually experiencing post-zombie hysteria.
All the cast work great for the parts they are given. I even like the extras in this, who all get across their disgust and hatred really effectively. Sam Keeley takes the lead here, and he’s very good at the everyman vibe as someone inflicted with a horribly unlucky lot and dealing with the psychological and social consequences of actions he had no control over. They give him a good bit of bonding time with Abbie and her son, and it never feels like they’re rubbing it on too thick. Easily the highlight, however, is Tom Vaughan-Lawlor as Conor. His quiet anger and subtle manipulations make him a deeply fascinating character to watch throughout. There’s a worry that such a good actor keeps getting typecast in these villainous parts, as gangsters or militant activists, but he gives the part more layers than that and is engaging throughout.
The film does go into some pretty predictable territory that I didn’t care for. The third act is kind of a mess, both intentionally and not so much. Character arcs get really weird written off conclusions or just don’t really have much of a final note. Outside of that, this is really distinctive zombie noir and a fantastic debut. It’s effectively shot and edited, manages to be a moody drama about prejudice whilst also a cracking horror flick. If this is the future of speculative fiction in my country, I’m well on board. Can’t wait to see what else we have in store.