A virus known as Maze has afflicted the world, causing the infected to fly into mad rages and cannibalise anyone within reach, strangers, friends, family, they were utterly indiscriminate in their murder sprees. But now the virus has been contained and a cure has been found for up to seventy-five percent of the sufferers, which has seen it wiped out almost everywhere but Ireland, where there remains a problem, not least because those who are cured are shunned by almost everyone who has lost a loved one to their previous rampages. One such cured is Senan (Sam Keeley), and he has been invited back to the home of his sister-in-law Abbie (Ellen Page) - an unpopular move.
But Abbie simply wants life to return to as normal as possible from before she was widowed by one of the infected, she has a young son to look after and wants to bring him up in a safe environment, yet the pressure of what has happened in recent history is bringing itself to bear on the present, and indeed the future of Ireland. If you're thinking, hmm, could there be an allegory lurking here in writer and director David Freyne's horror movie, then you would not be far off, as it was filmed in Northern Ireland where the Troubles were a looming memory and everyone still knew someone who had been affected, or even involved in that conflict. Was this wise, then, to make a chiller out of it?
There was no doubt Freyne was sincere to the point of dejection, as The Cured was surely one of the glummest zombie flicks to emerge from the twenty-first century wave of the subgenre, and that took some doing. Obviously some examples had a lot more fun with the concept of the walking dead, but this was not one of those, the characters having no reason to crack a smile for almost the entire running time. Talking of running, these zombies were of the speedy variety, and were not technically dead once infected, so we were in more 28 Days Later territory than the George A. Romero original versions which shambled and shuffled along, though both kinds took a bite out of you.
The political dimension here did perhaps owe something to Romero, in that he used his undead to make a commentary on the world around him, and Freyne was doing the same with his plot, but in a manner so bleak that it appeared he had very little faith in Northern Ireland, or the whole of Ireland for that matter, shifting the scourge of sectarian violence. He was not exactly subtle in his endeavours, as he could have been accused of overstating his case, especially when thanks to his chosen style of a zombie yarn the results were not exactly going to be a barrel of laughs. Time and again, the cured are treated with extreme prejudice by those who were bereaved thanks to their actions, and nothing they can do can change the opinions of those for whom the scars of the unrest ran too deep.
Senan, who has terrible nightmares about his former life as a cannibal maniac, just wants to get on with life but even then has to do so under the jurisdiction of the authorities who are watching him and his fellow cured, newly released, like hawks. He gets a job in a research institute working with the twenty-five percent non-cured with bitter scientist Paula Malcomson, but his old buddy from the camps, former bigwig Conor (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor) is finding life post-violence difficult to adjust to since everyone rejects him, as if he knew what he was doing when he attacked and killed people. A neat touch saw Senan and company no longer under any threat from the infected, immune if you like, but when it all kicks off as Conor stages a revolt it is Abbie and her son we are most worried about for they are most vulnerable (although Page wields a mean axe). Finally, if there was any hope the country could get past its issues, it was somewhat overwhelmed by Freyne's civil war imagery; well handled, then, but bloody miserable. Music by Rory Friers and Niall Kennedy.
[In UK cinemas from 11 May 2018 and on DVD and Digital from 14 May 2018.]