Reviewed by Joy Parris-Do you like Gothic horror films set in the 18th century that is visually haunting with lots of heavy fog and foliage that feels like it wants to swallow you? Then be sure to add “The Cursed” to your watch list. The beginning scenes may seem somewhat unrelated and getting to the core of the story may feel slow. But if you stay the course you will gradually feel the pull of foreboding to come.
The story opens on a battlefield and moves to the doctors and nurses attempting to save the lives of the wounded soldiers. Arms and legs are chopped off and lots of blood is everywhere. The camera shots are tight and up close making the viewer an intimate part of the scene. They work frantically to save a soldier who has been shot multiple times. As guts are exposed the doctor pulls out one, two, and the final last bullet, its silver. From his expression, it’s clear this is something he has never seen before.
You’re thinking werewolves, right? Wrong but maybe right, but the answer of course won’t come until the end. Enter Pathologist John Mc Bride (Boyd Holbrook) arrives at the village and no one is quite sure why he is there and what he hopes to find. But when the Landowner’s young son Edward (Max Mackintosh) is attacked he is brought to the family estate to help. John explains the animal is a wolf and Edward’s dad Seamus Laurent (Alistar Petrie) is eager to find and kill it. He invites John to stay at the manor and help them catch the beast.
The film is beautifully shot with light and dark shadows like a lovers dance and its feeling of intimacy is captivating as well as frightening. The close up shots of Kelly Reilly are heart wrenching making you feel her loss in the depths of your soul.
As John seeks answers he hears rumors of gypsy curses upon the land and it seems Seamus and his group of colleagues might be holding back important information. And John has an agenda for being at the village. Because he saw this very scenario in his village that took the life of his wife and daughter. When more brutal attacks happen the community is panicked and John knows he has to find and kill this animal at any cost. He corrals all the villagers to camp out at the church and boards up the doors and windows. Warning them it’s the only safe place to be. Seamus’s wife Isabelle Laurent(Kelly Reilly) hides her pain with stoic indifference begins to shed some light on her husband’s action. Before she can give John all the facts Seamus demands that he leaves.
“The Cursed” is more than just a horror story. Director, Writer, and Producer, Sean Ellis has crafted a tale about class, greed, and corruption with no regard for human life. The continuos narcissism of the colonial elite to take land and resources that don’t belong to them regardless of the consequences. But most disturbing is the brutality that humans can inflict on each other back then and today.
The Cursed in Theaters Now
The Curse was born from the desire to reimagine and update the Werewolf legend for a modern-day audience. I wanted to play on the known folklore of the legend and give it a fresh approach to the cliched story devices that have been copied from the original 1941 film, The Wolf Man. That film was written by Curt Siodmak and the curse of the Wolf was a metaphor for being born Jewish pre-World War II. I started to think about how a modern audience could identify with the Werewolf curse through what plagues us in modern society. One thing I focused on was addiction – whether it be to drugs, our phones, or anything else – and how that addiction can destroy families and communities.
We have all experienced that wolf that lurks inside us, that whispers to us, that sometimes leads us to stray from the right path and make us prisoners to its impulses.
This new take on the idea also informed my approach to how people would physically change into the wolf. I didn’t want the characters to go through the typical transformation of growing hair, sprouting teeth, and howling at the moon. Instead, I wanted them to literally become prisoners of the beast. To be completely consumed and ingested by it.
I was so lucky to have a great cast and crew working on this film. We filmed in France in two blocks of time; one in April of 2019 and one in February 2020, finishing in April shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Filmmaking is storytelling. I know everyone who watches the film will see things differently, but I hope it is a film that will really connect with people in some way, and that they will enjoy the ride.