“The Cursed” is a horror movie set within the 18th century, a few pathologists investigating a sequence of bloody animal assaults on French property. Written, directed, and photographed by Sean Ellis (“Anthropoid”), it is visually and atmospherically a knockout, utilizing mist and foliage in addition to darkness to arrange and intensify the various stalkings, huntings, and horrific assaults.
The model is paying homage to beautiful however brutal historic dramas like “Barry Lyndon” and “The Last of the Mohicans,” to the purpose of the place it appears not fairly proper to sum up “The Cursed” as a “werewolf film.” Ellis’ script attracts on acquainted parts of werewolf mythology as established within the film that began the style, the 1940 Common Horror traditional “The Wolfman,” together with sure bits of lore (an individual bitten by a werewolf can change into a werewolf, however, provided that they survive the assault) and pressure of exoticism centered on Roma tradition (referred to right here as gypsies).
The latter ties collectively class battle, the concern of the “different,” and colonialism. There is a framing machine set in World Conflict I that ultimately does repay on the finish (although it would not deepen the film; it is simply intelligent), however for probably the most half, “The Cursed” sticks to 1 property in rural France and the encompassing space, the place rich household guidelines over land seized from Roma tribespeople. Their village is destroyed in one of many movie’s most spectacular sequences, an unbroken, static lengthy take of the mayhem that makes you’re feeling as for those who’re watching atrocities from excessive on a hilltop and are powerless to cease them.
One of many ladies of the tribe is pressured to look at her husband being mutilated and burned to demise and raised up on a tall wooden cross to function as a scarecrow, then she herself is buried alive in an open grave, however not after one of many employed goons working for the landowner finds a human skull-piece: jaws solely, its tooth eliminated and changed with silver replicas. Then the nightmares start among the many native youngsters, who visualize themselves strolling to the location of the murders in the course of the nighttime and getting concerned in bizarre and horrifying predicaments which might be an expression of what we might possibly name suppressed cultural guilt. No set of silver teeth in a movie like that is going to take a seat on the floor without getting used to chewing someone, and positive sufficient, fairly quickly there is a creature roaming around, killing some victims and horribly wounding others.
It would not be sporting to explain the plot in an excessive amount of element right here, as probably the most distinctive factor about “The Cursed” is the best way it performs round with what we consider as customary werewolf mythology. It isn’t simply the Marxist-adjacent worldview of the movie that fascinates (in a single sequence, a servant lady survives being bitten, then wraps her wounds and goes to work as a result of she’s scared of getting fired for not exhibiting up) but additionally the theme of suppressed guilt over colonialist, exploitive, even genocidal tendencies amongst Europe’s ruling courses.
An interesting pressure in literary criticism holds that gothic fictions comparable to “Wuthering Heights,” “Dracula,” “The Flip of the Screw” and “Rebecca” are at the least partly a solution to categorical collective guilt over the bloody sins of colonialism and slavery: the return of the oppressed in addition to the suppressed. Lots of the tales are a few international or exiled characters, usually described as “darkish” or “swarthy,” coming to (or returning to) a European nation, normally England however not all the time, to carry drama and havoc to snug wealthy individuals. “The Cursed” matches inside that custom. It is absolutely no accident that the responsible desires adopted by overwhelming violence are initially concentrated among the much younger: there’s even a line in regards to the sins of the mother and father cursing or “infecting” subsequent generations.
On high of all that, Ellis has enjoyable enjoying round with the visible features of werewolf lore. Pathologist John McBride (Boyd Holbrook) is a soulful, unhappy Van Helsing-type who’s there to assist battle a phenomenon that he noticed play out in his personal hometown, claiming the lives of his spouse and daughter. There is a little bit of crossover with the zombie movie (and two years and counting of Covid-19 denialism) with locals initially refusing to know and settle for that there is a factor on the market that may kill you, and that even for those who do not die from it, you’ll be able to unfold it to others, after which they will exit and kill, too. A few of the gory and gooey particular results are additionally paying homage to the varied variations of “The Factor,” a monster movie that was additionally a pandemic film.
It is all so wealthy—and so richly executed by Ellis, a complete filmmaker—that one needs it added as much as greater than a sequence of good variations on a sure kind of movie. The film clocks in at lower than two hours, however as grateful as one could also be for relative brevity within the age of blockbuster bloat, there are occasions when you might want that the filmmaker had taken extra moments to develop upon one of many many intriguing concepts contained in his script and observe his personal finest impulses as an allegory-maker by not copping out on the finish of the story or prizing narrative neatness over nightmarish resonance. Contemplating all its assorted ambitions, this can be a film that ought to lodge in your mind and hang out your desires for the remainder of your life, not ship you away from considering how handsomely produced and neatly constructed it was.
All that having been stated, the supporting solid, which incorporates Kelly Reilly, Alistair Petrie, Roxane Duran, and Nigel Betts, is excellent, and scene for scene, that is Ellis’ best-directed movie, drawing on every little thing from “The Shining” and “The Innocents” to “Jaws,” the “Jurassic Park” franchise, and even John Sayles’ labor drama “Matewan.” Robin Foster’s synth rating is excellent as properly, channeling that terrifying-wonderful John Carpenter feeling that there is one thing horrible lurking on the market in the dead of night, and it may take its candy time killing you.
Now enjoying in theaters.