Politicians are interested in hearts and minds. Zombies are only interested in brains. Powerful new zombie movie “The Cured” is interested in all these parts of us, cleverly twisting a familiar monster to the very limits of its metaphorical power.
“The Cured” played this month at the annual London Film Festival and is set for release in spring 2018. The tweak to the well-worn genre: It’s set after a violent zombie uprising, with the humans who were turned into murderous carnivores now cured. It’s basically a post-zombie movie.
What follows is a brilliantly taut political thriller, with a few requisite scares from the remaining zombies who are resistant to the cure. The thought-provoking subtext is layered beneath a compelling character study and an air of tension and suspense. It has a similar cocktail of technology and tension as “Black Mirror” and shares the gray-skied aesthetic and sense of lingering dread of “28 Days Later“.
Ellen Page stars as Abbie, a widowed journalist who welcomes her de-zombified brother-in-law Senan back into her life, much to her neighbours’ disgust. Unfortunately, neither the former zombies nor the surviving humans can forget — or forgive — the terrible things the infected did while in their zombie state. The cured former zombies have been released back into the world, but are forced to live and work as second-class citizen alongside an angry populace, while the government makes plans to cull those resistant to the cure.
Abbie represents forgiveness and hope for the future, but the guilt-stricken Senan is drawn into the orbit of Conor, who inspires the embittered and angry cured into increasingly violent resistance. Page’s name may be the headliner, but Sam Keeley (Senan) and Tom Vaughan-Lawlor (Conor) are the focus as they portray the battle for the hearts, minds and souls in the new world.
Set on the chilly streets of Ireland, the story has immediate symbolic resonance. It’s a dissection of a grief-stricken society struggling to choose between anger or reconciliation after a horrifying event, swapping a zombie apocalypse for the violence that divided Ireland until recent years.
Writer and director David Freyne skillfully uses the post-zombie scenario to deftly explore a variety of related and timely issues. The film examines xenophobia and the morality of foreign intervention in local emergencies. It asks how the security of the community should be weighed against the rights of the individual. It explores how people on both sides of a conflict can become radicalised and how demagogues with their own agendas can manipulate ordinary people. There are also echoes of issues such as addiction, as the cured remember the hurtful things they did while they were under the influence.
It’s been years since “28 Days Later”, “Shaun of the Dead” and “The Walking Dead” re-animated the zombie, and the undead are still regularly shambling across our screens. You’d think the genre might have run out of ideas by now. But in compelling and ambitious stories like “The Cured”, the genre only seems to get smarter.
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