The Cursed, 2021.
Directed by Sean Ellis.
Starring Boyd Holbrook, Kelly Reilly, Alistair Petrie, Roxane Duran, and Áine Rose Daly.
In the French countryside during the 1800s, John McBride, a pathologist tasked with determining whether the body of a young boy found in the works was the work of man or beast.
After the vampire renaissance of the 00s, many horror fans waited for werewolves to have their moment. A long underutilized part of horror’s history, a solid werewolf film is tough to come by. When we finally get one that stands above the rest – let’s say something like Ginger Snaps or Dog Soldiers – it’s a day of celebration.
Well, it looks like we can get the party hats as we have another strong entry in the world of werewolf cinema. The Cursed is a little rough around the edges and has an ending that will likely anger some viewers, but there’s something undeniably enigmatic about this film. For sure, it’s morose, but you become more engrossed over time rather than feel weighed down by its tone. That’s not easy to do, but director Sean Ellis understands how he wants to present this story.
Taking it back to the 1800s, this period horror film follows pathologist turned monster hunter John McBride investigating a family’s horrific case in the French countryside. While he’s fighting a seemingly demonic force, he’s also facing his own demons, which get in the way of his mission.
There’s a clear vision throughout, and even if that vision is to utterly disturb you with visceral violence and an utter sense of dread, it’s still cohesive. The clarity of concept is there, Sean Ellis locking in a solid script and sleek directing to match the new direction he’s taking this creature feature. He’s actually trying to reinvent the werewolf wheel, and it’s a bit refreshing compared to so much we see in the independent horror world.
So often, we see these types of films go through the same motions. Even some greats are only variations of other greats, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just good to see that there’s an effort to make The Cursed something that feels like a must-see for those who’s seen it all.
Anyone who knows about werewolves or any of the Universal-inspired monster movies knows you must have a good hunter, and our lead actor Boyd Holbrook offers that up. Holbrook has been an actor I’ve followed since first seeing him in the gritty superhero epic Logan, and every time he gets a meaty role like this, it’s a delight.
Our werewolf hunter is layered and imperfect but really centers the film as the best character. Once the younger cast was quickly disposed of, Alistair Petrie’s character and his family’s drama isn’t as engaging as you’d like, so Holbrook’s John McBride saves the film like he tries to save the day.
The only thing Holbrook can’t save is some sloppy moments in the film’s edit and visual. No, not the practical visual effects, and some of the gore is shockingly real looking. Sadly, some CGI moments stand out as a bit distracting, and they come at fairly important moments, so they break the immersion a bit. Couple that with some un-needed jump scares, and it really takes you out of this fairly atmospheric experience. The Cursed shines best when it goes for shockingly strange moments or adds to the overall heavy emotions. When it feels like a more modern horror film with its jumps and dodgy effects, it keeps it from being an absolute masterpiece like some of its prestigious peers.
The only other gripe I have with this otherwise polished piece is the ending, but that seems to be something that works for every individual. The overall story-telling structure is a bit strange, though it works for a while during the film. The third act becomes a head-scratcher and doesn’t feel like it connects fully to the film. Seeds are planted for what comes at the end, but they weren’t watered enough throughout the runtime.
It’s a delight to have someone offer up their personal look on a sub-genre. It’s why we loved when Wes Craven explored slashers, and it’s why we loved Romero’s zombies. Sean Ellis could stake his claim as the original werewolf guy with his latest Sundance offering. Genre fans will likely be delight by all that Eight for Silver offers.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★