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'The Cured' Keeps The Zombie Film Genre Alive

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IFC Films
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David Freyne’s The Cured takes place in zombie-ravaged Ireland. Researchers have discovered that the culprit in zombie-ism is what’s called the Maze virus, and they’ve found a cure, which works in 75 percent of the cases. That sounds terrific at first, but oops, what about the 25 percent who are not cured. And, double-oops, what about the people who are cured.

Those whose relatives or friends have been chomped upon do not look happily upon those who did the chomping, regardless of whether the chompers have been pronounced cured or not. Those former zombies are despised and feared. No one wants them in their neighborhood. The equivalent of parole officers, dressed in military fatigues, check on their jobs and threaten them.

Cured zombie Senan (Sam Keely) has been released from custody and his sister-in-law Abbie (Ellen Page) has agreed to take him in. Her husband is full out dead after the zombie rampage, and you can bet that Senan knows something about that. Former zombies remember who dined on whom, what they did and what was done to them. Ireland being a small country, resentments flourish.

And as you’d expect in our aggrieved times, the now-despised ex-zombies are developing a chip on their collective shoulders. They’re a bit like the Cylons in Battlestar Gallactica; some of them are organizing and some of them, not-so-figuratively want blood.

At their best, zombie pictures show something about how human beings fear and mis-treat anyone they can identify as an other. Zombies also reflect our fears of contagion in a world that faces constantly evolving threats to survival. Because zombies present so powerful a danger, they’re killed off enthusiastically, with vivid images of heads blown or chopped apart, or however imaginatively they can be offed.

Zombies are also attractive movie figures because they’re simultaneously perpetrators and victims. They attack relentlessly; they pop out of the shadows to munch on a neck; in great hordes they trample fences and walls to get at fresh meat. And yet, we know that they’ve been afflicted and have certainly not chosen their state of being.

The Cured is about as morose a movie as you’ll get coming down the pike of zombie pictures. It’s filmed in blue/green tinged joyless light and shows a human society wracked by fear, hatred and resentment, among both the never-affected as well as the cured. Senan looks stupefied as he wanders about, and much of the picture is shaped from long, doleful staring. Senan is torn between his concern for Abbie and her little son, and possibilities of insurrection fomented by Conor (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor) who is organizing the cured ones to fight back against oppression, and maybe free that 25 percent who have not been cured and who are facing “elimination,” as they call it, from the never-afflicted ones.

So, The Cured offers up a grim situation, and it can’t escape its own mire. That’s a general problem with zombie films. You can see zombies as outcasts from mainstream society in all sorts of ways, but the problem is not that they’ll lower property values or fill your children with ideas you don’t like. Or even that they too have a legitimate claim on the land you inhabit. Zombies will eat you, your significant other and your kid, which makes empathy a stretch. You can let your mind leap into metaphor for mis-treated groups of human beings – there’s no shortage of ill-treatment in the world. But once you see the images of lurching humanoids eating your neighbors, sitting down to tea is an unlikely solution.

The Cured also leaves major questions unanswered. For instance, when is dead dead, or when is dead just a zombie in waiting? Or, will the former zombies now live mortal lives, like typical human beings, or having once died – or something like that – will their existence take another course? Inquiring minds want to know. It’s also too bad that The Cured has not a whiff of humor about it.

Howie Movshovitz came to Colorado in 1966 as a VISTA Volunteer and never wanted to leave. After three years in VISTA, he went to graduate school at CU-Boulder and got a PhD in English, focusing on the literature of the Middle Ages. In the middle of that process, though (and he still loves that literature) he got sidetracked into movies, made three shorts, started writing film criticism and wound up teaching film at the University of Colorado-Denver. He continues to teach in UCD’s College of Arts & Media.
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