The Cursed – Movie Review

Our sins always have a way of catching up to us.  At least that’s the way most major religions describe the universe.  Whether it be the will of a deity, karma, or some other supernatural force, many cultures have some idea or believe in some form of cosmic justice.

Writer/Director Sean Ellis may be more known for indie dramas, but his first foray into horror is both brutal in tone and sobering in theme. The result is The Cursed: a visually stunning movie that’s not your typical werewolf movie!

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You almost have to call it a werewolf movie by default because there’s not really any other way to describe it.

Sins of the Past
In a strange and unexpected opening, the movie begins with the legendary and tragic Battle of the Somme during the First World War.  We watch a legion of British troops hunker down as they are bombarded with atrocious chemical weapons (that were unfortunately common in that war).  Following this, they charge against the German trench, only to be mowed down by machine gun fire.

It sets the perfect tone of the movie with its long and detailed continuous shots, as well as its use of shocking visuals to convey a sense of tragic violence.  And while it’s a fascinating scene that does get called back to later, it doesn’t ever really amount to anything in the grand scheme. By no means is it a bad scene, it just feels a bit like an exercise in vanity.

We then rewind back 35 years to the main storyline.  During a cholera epidemic, things are quiet out on the English countryside.  Wealthy landowner Seamus (Alistair Petrie) lives in a beautiful mansion with his wife Isabelle (Kelly Reilly) and two children Charlotte (Amelia Crouch) and Eddie (Max Mackintosh).  They benefit from a rich and privileged existence while everyone else living on the land works for them.

However a group of Gypsys has laid an ancestral claim to the land (which turns out to be true), and Seamus and his fellow landowners exact a particularly gruesome and heinous measure to rid themselves of these unwelcome guests.  But in doing so, a curse is created that wreaks havoc upon the land, the people, and Seamus’ family.

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The most disturbing part isn’t even the monster horror. It’s the chilling reminder of what humans have done to other humans

Victorian Drama Meets Monster Horror
Upon removing a set of silver teeth from the ground, a curse is born in which people begin to turn into a monstrous creature that rips everyone to shreds.  Those “lucky” enough to survive become cursed themselves.  Meanwhile, a pathologist John McBride (Boyd Holbrook) with a mysterious past attempts to track down and kill the creatures.

On the surface, it all seems like a much better version of 2010’s The Wolfman, but describing it as such is an understatement.  The Cursed plays out like a historical drama coupled with horror elements and it makes for a genuinely fascinating watch.

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It relishes in its gothic setting in a way that makes you unable to look away!

The long takes in the vast wilderness only add to the tension.  While the normal reserved tone of most people in that era helps keep the pressure boiling until there’s nothing left for it to do but burst!

Not since Bram Stoker’s Dracula has a movie so seamlessly blended these two genres of film.  And while The Cursed doesn’t have that movie’s ensemble cast or unique production design, what it does have is compelling characters that all feel three dimensional.

As far as monster horror goes, the dread and fear are built up perfectly and muck like Jaws before it, we don’t see a whole lot of the “werewolves” until the very end of the movie.  Granted, the CGI on them isn’t the best, and it does take away from the archaic nature of everything else about the movie.  But we can’t fault an indie film, let alone an indie period piece, for working within the limitations of its budget.

The Real Monsters
McBride is the closest thing we have to a hero in the story.  And knowing the reason the curse exists almost makes you root against the people being killed.  But then again he’s in it for the innocents that he knows will be collateral damage.  He (and the audience) are able to reconcile that a party can be terribly wronged, but that doesn’t justify doing the same wrong to other innocents.

And even Seamus who was responsible for such abysmal actions justifies it to himself that he was doing it for his family.  And you even get the sense that he even believes it, or at least he tells himself that he does.

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Seamus is very much a product of his time. And rightfully so the movie doesn’t attempt to retcon him into something more progressive. Nor does it try to justify his actions. Rather it presents him as a fully fleshed out human from that era.

It would have been too easy to paint those who created the curse or those who caused the curse as wholly good or wholly evil, when the truth lies somewhere in the middle.  This isn’t to suggest or downplay the killing of innocent people in the name of xenophobia, which is nothing less than genocide.

But rather, the movie forces us to confront the idea that those we perceive as monsters can have humanity and those that we perceive as dignified can be capable of truly monstrous actions.

The Cursed is a must watch if you’re a fan of monster horror or period drama. And if you’re a fan of both (which admittedly I am), it might just be the perfect mashup for you!

What did you think of The Cursed?  What are some of your other favorite werewolf movies?  Let us know in the comments!

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