Should a filmmaker decide to make a zombie flick these days, they will have to contend with oversaturation and viewer weariness. The 21st century has been awash with zombie flicks. And should film not sate one’s desires to see the undead tear apart human flesh, there is the media juggernaut that is The Walking Dead, still lumbering along after fifteen years. That franchise has done more to make people tired of zombies than anything else. The degree of difficulty for a filmmaker to make something interesting in the zombie subgenre of horror, then, is very high. There are basically two options. One: come up with a new idea that shakes up the unwritten rules of zombies. Two: go conventional, but do it well. Both of those are easier said than done. The Cured, the 2017 zombie flick from writer/director David Freyne, tries to do a combination of both.
The Cured takes place after a zombie outbreak in Ireland has been contained. The zombification has been caused by something called the Maze virus. The good news for Ireland is that a scientist, Dr. Lyons (Paula Malcomson), has discovered a cure. It’s not 100% effective, but the majority of infected have been cured. The bad news for the cured is that they retain the memories of the things they did while they were zombies, and so do the survivors, for that matter.
The film opens with two cured individuals, Senan and Conor (Sam Keeley and Tom Vaughan-Lawlor), being released from quarantine back into society. They are met by an astounding amount of bigotry. The people of Ireland, in general, do not want them back. Even though they are cured, they are still taking the blame for the things they did while they were infected. It doesn’t matter that they had no control over their actions at the time.
Sam is staying with his sister-in-law, Abbie (Ellen Page), and her young son, Cillian (Oscar Nolan). Sam’s brother is not around because Sam attacked and killed him while he was a zombie. The memory of this is causing a fair amount of guilt in Sam, made worse by keeping what happened a secret from Abbie. She has no idea, and no suspicion, that zombie Sam was responsible.
Meanwhile, Conor and some of the other cured have gotten pretty sick and tired of the way they are being treated by society. Before the outbreak, Conor was a successful lawyer who was running for office. Now he’s a janitor. Adding injury to insult, the cured have a nasty caseworker in the form of Sergeant Cantor (Stuart Graham), who physically abuses the cured for minor transgressions, such as being late for work or talking back. Cantor has no respect for the cured, feeling that they are still monsters inside, and is as responsible for Conor and the others’ subsequent actions as anyone.
At this point, the zombie stuff is peripheral to the film. Conor and company begin to take on the establishment like they’re in the IRA. Conor ropes Sam into doing something he regrets, and then when Sam tries to walk away from Conor’s rebellion, Conor devotes an inordinate amount of time to punishing Sam for his decision. It was at this point in the film that all the cliché began to hurt my attention span.
The idea of cured zombies has the veneer of originality, but it has already been done. The zombie behavior in this film is nothing new, and the pseudo-IRA plotline has been done before, as well. The big problem with this film is that everything it does, is done by rote. And Ellen Page, who is the best talent in the film, is underutilized, spending her screen time as the suffering widow.
The Cured is not a bad film, but it doesn’t offer much until the final act. Then, things get frenetic as more zombie killing starts. The whole experience of watching this film is one of flatness. It’s a familiar landscape that we’ve seen a million times, and it doesn’t seem to matter anymore if it’s still nice to look at.