The Cursed (2022) Tackles Fresh New Look at Werewolves
Title: The Cursed
First Non-Festival Release: February 18, 2022 (Theatrical Release)
Director: Sean Ellis
Writer: Sean Ellis
Runtime: 113 Minutes
Starring: Boyd Holbrook, Kelly Reilly, Alistair Petrie
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Seamus Laurent (Alistair Petrie) heads the table of the most powerful men in the village when calling for the removal of a group of Romani people after a land dispute. After a refusing a bribe, the Romani are murdered by a group of missionaries hired by the patriarchs of the village. Before they are killed, one of the remaining survivors places a curse on the land as a token of revenge for the savagery committed against them. Meanwhile, travelling pathologist John McBride (Boyd Holbrook) stops a few towns over questioning patrons of a bar on the whereabouts of the Romani, who he is following for unrelated reasons. His arrival is requested after a tragic accident takes the life of a young boy in the village and causes the disappearance of another.
A modern werewolf film with claws long enough to penetrate deeply, The Cursed is a visual marvel.
Following the premise of The Cursed, a werewolf does not merely appear in the isolated community, it is summoned after barbaric cruelty at the hands of the landowners. From there, it continues to subvert expectations by taking hold in a unique way. Lycanthropy doesn’t come with the full moon nor do the werewolves look like the creatures we have come to know. Instead, these creatures come about through the bite of a cursed object and afflicted victims. Traditionalists, however, will be relieved to know that silver is still a major plot point here.
What is even more exciting is that the mythology of the werewolf gets expanded in plenty of unusual ways which makes The Cursed stand out even further from its contemporaries. Mixing Christian theology and some wonderfully demonic additions to the transformation, The Cursed does not skimp on any world building. It’s refreshing to see that with a little creativity, any subgenre can get a much-needed push in a different direction to expand its frontiers.
In film, curses can be utilized in many ways, in this dark werewolf picture the curse placed upon the land comes from an act of genocide, greed, and prejudice. A group comprised of the powerfully wealthy decide to ignore claims made on their land and that the only solution is to murder an entire group of people. The irony behind their decision to make their surroundings safer is that they unknowingly endanger the innocents in their community after the curse is placed upon everyone. It adds a nice layer to the idea of a werewolf, one of otherism that is inflicted upon those who beget cruelty to others.
While the characters are not particularly noteworthy, their arcs are sufficiently drawn out. One purveyor of injustice gains a decent understanding of the gravity of his actions before meeting an unusually noble fate for someone consumed by selfishness. Another avenges losses incurred years ago when the same curse took his family. The cast does a solid job crafting their characters throughout the film. Boyd Holbrook’s steely courage and vulnerability make for an engaging leading male while Kelly Reilly’s breakdown feels more earned than it might have been in the hands of a less capable actress.
The creature design in The Cursed is nothing short of inspired. Disregarding conventional knowledge on werewolves, the team here goes for something even more unnatural looking and with rules that deceive traditional notions. Fresh and intriguing, this change in design alone is welcome in a subgenre that is filled to the brim with the same rotation of big, dark-haired monsters. Its excellent transition from the page to the screen with top notch visual effects and costuming is only the cherry on top.
Brooding and unyielding, this period piece is adept at piling on the intensity and gore while crafting a sustained atmosphere of unease. Many of the film’s more unsettling sequences rely on many quick transitions to highlight the erratic nature of the fever dream nightmares the town collectively experiences of the murders. While there is much to celebrate regarding its methodical approach to horror, the deliberate yet plodding pacing keeps The Cursed from truly elevating to a great horror movie.
It’s hard to knock The Cursed for its ambitious setup. Pitching and executing a deliciously gory werewolf period piece for mainstream audiences during a pandemic is ambitious feat to be admired. The craft of the creators is front and center between its eye-popping effects, captivating camerawork, and strong performances that it does distract from the film’s admittedly sluggish pace. Any subversion to the traditional creature feature should be celebrated, especially one as rich as The Cursed. While I didn’t love it, The Cursed should work for fans of the classic 2001 Brotherhood of the Wolf who are aching for a return to a more artistic rendition of the beasts.
Overall Score? 6.5/10