The Cured (15A)
If we draw a line from, say, King Kong to The Elephant Man, we can see a pattern. The mistreated ‘beasts’ become the victims of corporate forces trying to wipe them out. In such cases our sympathies lie foursquare behind such pariahs.
The problem with The Cured, which focuses on a group of incarcerated Irish people supposedly recovering from a disease called ‘the Maze’ which causes them to turn into vampires, is that no clear delineation between heroes and villains exists in the perspective of director David Freyne.
We don’t know who we’re meant to root for. Is it Senan (Sam Keeley), who goes to his sister-in-law Abigail (Ellen Page) to enhance his recovery from the disease? He’s the obvious hero but he can be gruesome sometimes. Is it his friend Conor (Tim Vaughn-Lawlor), the sullen terrorist? Hardly. He seems more bad than mad. It’s certainly not Cantor (Stuart Graham), the sneering leader of the military.
Having a gruesome (anti-) hero and two contrapuntal villains skews the film thematically. We can’t become apologists for soldiers mowing down escaping prisoners and neither can we be expected to cheer when the prisoners cannibalise the soldiers.
Should we support the Cured Alliance, a group of insurgents intent on doing down the military? For some reason they reminded me of the IRA – perhaps because of the Maze reference. Not these either, I’m afraid – even if it would mean the liquidation of Cantor.
The film tries to re-invent the zombie genre with some post-apocalyptic noises about ethnic cleansing. Unfortunately, its thematic fuzziness renders these largely impotent.
It resists few opportunities to shock, becoming more Wes Craven than M Night Shyamalan. This is a pity because there’s a good story trying to get out here.
Senan situates himself somewhere between the subversive intent of Conor and his role as protector of maiden-in-distress Abby and her son. Which way will he go? In the end it doesn’t really matter. Freyne nails his colours so much to the horror mast, this pretty much knocks everything else out of the ballpark.
There are stomach-churning jumpcuts. An ear-piercing soundtrack. (The hyperventilating Mazers resemble a saw cutting through wood.) A plethora of the ‘uncured’ scream out in agony. They occasionally break free of captivity to kill – or eat! – their captors.
I was surprised this didn’t get an over-18s certificate. It should have come with a Government health warning. I was fortunate to see it at a morning show. (If it was night-time I’d probably have been under the seat.) Parts of it make The Exorcist look like Mary Poppins.
That said, if you have nerves of steel you might be perversely fascinated by the serpentine power of Conor. Here’s a man possessed of Mephistophelean self-righteousness as he drones on with his “It’s them or us” mission statement.
He delivers his revolutionary rants in a basement canteen with the door open. The IRA would never have been this lax.