The Cursed

****

Reviewed by: James Gracey

Eight For Silver
"A compelling story, effectively told." | Photo: Courtesy of Sundance Institute

After their father, a cold-hearted land baron, ruthlessly slaughters a camp of Romani who staked a claim to his land, young Charlotte (Amelia Crouch) and Edward (Max Mackintosh) begin to have ominous dreams of a human scarecrow and silver teeth. The dreams draw them and other children from the nearby village to the site of the massacre, and soon after, Edward goes missing. The discovery of grisly remains attracts the attention of a grief-stricken pathologist (Boyd Holbrook), who suspects something supernatural is lurking in the surrounding forest and vows to hunt it down and destroy it.

A brooding period horror, The Cursed is a compelling story, effectively told. Opening with a tantalising prologue set during the Battle of the Somme - in which an army surgeon extracts several bullets from an injured soldier before discovering a silver bullet that had already been inside him - writer and director Sean Ellis has created an intriguing mythology, with a truly uncommon approach to the figure of the werewolf. Intertwining creepy European folklore (gypsy curses and diabolism) with folk horror ritualism, Ellis has woven a narrative as rich in character and story as it is in atmosphere and tone.

Copy picture

Set in 19th century France during a Cholera epidemic, the screenplay toys with ideas of the infectiousness of monstrosity, the barbarity of man and how one generation/class can infect another with its hatred and intolerance. Those who are attacked by the beast are like hosts consumed by a virus, taken over from the inside out. The monster is, for the most part, relegated to the periphery of the screen, and the transformation sequences, like those depicted in The Company of Wolves, are rather atypical of the genre and present something never seen before.

Aside from a couple of cheap jump scares, completely unworthy of the film Ellis has carefully crafted, proceedings remain taut with deliberate pacing and some truly haunting imagery - the scarecrow and set of silver teeth are particularly chilling. All the burning torches and misty moors under a low, obscured sun lend events an eerie, dream-like quality. The slow burn, suggestive approach frequently ignites into gruesome violence and viscera, notably in the scene depicting the Romani camp massacre which, while filmed from afar, has echoes of Witchfinder General in its period detail and utterly gruesome violence. A sombre score, courtesy of Robin Foster, enhances the slowly conjuring dread, becoming more insistent in moments of tension and threat.

Some moments – the gypsy curse, the significance of silver – may harken back to classic Hollywood horror, but Ellis renders them with an intriguing new power and The Cursed emerges as a mean and moody shocker with a haunting, weirdly lyrical undertow.

Reviewed on: 18 Feb 2022
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In the late 1800s, a man arrives in a remote country village to investigate an attack by a wild animal but discovers a much deeper, sinister force that has both the manor and the townspeople in its grip.

Read more The Cursed reviews:

Amber Wilkinson ****

Director: Sean Ellis

Writer: Sean Ellis

Starring: Boyd Holbrook, Kelly Reilly, Alistair Petrie, Amelia Crouch, Roxane Duran, Aine Rose Daly

Year: 2021

Runtime: 113 minutes

Country: UK

Festivals:

Sundance 2021

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