A throwback to classic Universal Monster and Hammer Horror! After it was received positively at Sundance, The Cursed received a theatrical release. I was first cued into this film after seeing many positive comments on Film Twitter, so naturally, I had to check it out! From it’s foreboding atmosphere to its less is more approach with the werewolf-like creatures and the creepy orchestral score, fans of classic supernatural monster horror will undoubtedly find immense enjoyment in this film. Director Sean Ellis pulls out all the in camera stops in order to craft an incredibly haunting, intense film that is sure to become one of the best horror films of 2022, if not amongst the best in the last few years. Although the creatures are seldom seen on screen (excellent move), when the audience does see them, it sends chills down the spine. While the film is not frocked with violence, in terms of qualtity, it’s rather subdued, when Ellis delivers a kill or wound, he deliver acutely in spades–blink and you’ll miss some of them. That’s the beauty in this film, it does not rely upon violence to carry the film; rather, it relies upon characters and the thoughtful plot. In terms of the screenwriting, I did find the beginning of the first act to suffer structurally (and I attribute this to what I interpret as Ellis’ intentional decision to communicate to the audience that this is a thoughtful horror film). But after the rocky start, the film finally lays into what it does well–thrill through moving the horror from the screen into the mind of the audience. Aesthetically, the film will remind you of Barry Lyndon meets The Wolfman meets Burnt Offerings. For fellow sedentary adrenaline junkies (the psychological description for horror fans), The Cursed will satisfy everything we want out of a werewolf film.
In 19th-century France, a man arrives in a remote country village to investigate an attack by a wild animal. However, he soon discovers a much deeper and sinister force that has the manor and the townspeople in its grip.
A central theme in this horror film is taken directly out of the very roots of German and American Horror films: the fear of the other. By extension, some may closely read the film as a social commentary on colonialism (an exploration of postcolonial theory). The theme of fear of the other is coupled with the corruptive nature of greed and classism. Together, these themes give The Cursed a substantive nature that makes this film rewatchable. Without getting into spoiler territory, there is one sequence that I want to highlight, that is one static shot; however, it’s takes an emotional toll on our minds as we watch atrocities unfold from afar.
WWI serves as diegetic bookends; however, it isn’t until midway through the film that the opening is connected to the rest of the story, and ultimately doesn’t carry significance until the end when the connection is made. It’s more clever than substantive.
The plotting of the film is straight forward: there is a mythological beast that needs to be killed; however, what makes this werewolf film stand out compared to most others over the decades is how it plays around with werewolf mythology. And this film accomplishes that by getting creative with what we are accustomed to seeing in cinema. Through these strategic decisions, the monster movie feels fresh yet familiar. You may find a little zombie mythology thrown into the mix too. Ellis is clearly a gifted horror filmmaker who knows how to craft original interpretations of classic material without it feeling like a remake or rehash of that which was before. Furthermore, he shows the ability to integrate social commentary into the film without it coming across as a condescending sermon.
If you’re a horror fan, do yourself a favor and watch The Cursed! Perhaps you will leave the cinema wondering if there is something horrible lurking out there in the dark, in those liminal spaces just beyond our line of site; and the terrifying unknown is going to take its sweet time in hunting you down for the kill.
Ryan teaches Film Studies and Digital Citizenship at the University of Tampa. If you like this article, check out the others and FOLLOW this blog! Interested in Ryan making a guest appearance on your podcast or contributing to your website? Send him a DM on Twitter or email him at RLTerry1@gmail.com! If you’re ever in Tampa or Orlando, feel free to catch a movie with him.
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