Monday, February 19, 2018

The Cured: Post-Zombie Ireland

Just what we needed, more forms of identity politics. In this case, it is your zombie status that really matters. It’s more complicated than you might think. After the outbreak of the Maze Virus, a cure was developed that returned 75% of the infected to their former human state. Alas, one quarter remain feral zombies, the so-called “Resistants.” Having lived through a zombie apocalypse, many of the uninfected still harbor suspicions of the other 75%, perhaps with some justification in David Freyne’s The Cured (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

There is already a substantial body of film that speculates on how society would adjust to a cure for zombie-ism, including the BBC America show In the Flesh and the Canadian film, The Returned. The notion that some of the uninfected still hold a grudge is an old saw by now, but Freyne still harps on it. The first wave of “Cured” integration was not exactly a smashing success. Senan and Connor are part of the second. They hunted together during their zombie days, which they still vividly remember. One of their victims was Senan’s brother, a fact he declines to share with his American sister-in-law Abigail when she agrees to take him in, but the memory still tortures him.

Senan wants to live a quiet life and be a good uncle to his nephew, but Connor is a bad influence on him. Before the zombie outbreak, Connor was an up-and-coming politician, so he logically becomes a leading figure in the Cured-power movement. They argue they are merely a civil rights group, but there is reason to suspect they yearn to return to their days of brain-munching.

The Returned wants to lecture us on inclusion and understanding, but it is undone by its genre.
When you make a zombie movie, you need to have the zombie hoards start rampaging eventually, so you have to have a reason the fragile peace collapses. In this case, it is Connor and his Cured militants who upset the not so great equilibrium. That means they really are dangerous after all, so the hawkish skepticism was justified, rendering film’s didactic messaging null and void. Except for Senan, it sure starts to look like the only good zombie is a dead zombie.

In Maze, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor played an IRA terrorist serving time in HM Maze Prison, while in The Cured, he plays Connor, who was infected with Maze virus. It is highly debatable which character shows more remorse, if at all. Regardless, he is unsettling intense as the Cured resistance leader—arguably so powerfully so, he helps undermine Freyne’s efforts to liken the Cured to dispossessed immigrants and victims of police brutality.

To her credit, producer Ellen Page disappears into the role of mournful Abigail, but it is not like she has an overpowering movie star presence to contend with. Seriously, Juno was over ten years ago. Sam Keeley is also an effectively woeful sad sack as Senan. Yet, Paula Malcolmson has some of the best lines and the most interesting business as Dr. Joan Lyons, who is convinced she can cure the Resistant too, if she can just get six more months to perfect a serum, or maybe a full year—eighteen months, at the outside.

The Cured is so busy using zombies as a vehicle for Romero-esque commentary, it doesn’t even notice when its allegory collapses. Guess what? Zombies are dangerous, that’s what. Vaughan-Lawlor is impressive, and the Irish urban backdrop lends itself to the demilitarized dystopian near future. It just doesn’t add up to what Freyne intended. Too muddled to recommend, The Cured opens this Friday (2/23) in New York, at the IFC Center.