April 3, 2022
by Carla Hay
Directed by Sean Ellis
Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed English village in the late 1882, and briefly in France in 1917, the horror movie “The Cursed” features an all-white cast of characters representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.
Culture Clash: A small village in England is plagued by disappearances and murders that are being blamed on a possible werewolf.
Culture Audience: “The Cursed” will appeal primarily to people interested in werewolf horror stories that have elements of intrigue and visual terror that are better than most horror films.
“The Cursed” makes some unique and effective visual departures from a typical werewolf horror movie. The movie’s pace is sometimes sluggish, but the terror scenes more than make up for the film’s minor flaws. It’s not a movie that’s going to be considered the best horror film of the year, but “The Cursed” is very memorable and has the benefit of talented cast members who make their characters entirely believable.
Written and directed by Sean Ellis, “The Cursed” was originally titled “Eight for Silver” when it premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Although “The Cursed” is a very generic title that’s the name of several other horror movies, it’s actually a more accurate description of this movie’s plot than “Eight for Silver.” “The Cursed” has some gruesome violence that isn’t overly excessive. One of the best aspects of the movie is in how it builds suspense.
“The Cursed” opens with a scene taking place in France’s the Somme in 1917, during World War I. (History buffs might nitpick because World War I’s famous Battle of the Somme actually took place in 1916.) Soldiers wearing gas masks are in the battlefield trenches when they come under attack. Some of the wounded soldiers are then taken to a very chaotic medical tent. One of those soldiers, whose identity is revealed at the end of the film, undergoes emergency surgery, where a doctor extracts a large silver bullet from this soldier.
The movie than jumps to a scene taking place in an unknown country, where a middle-aged woman named Charlotte Laurent (played by Annabel Mullion) begins to tell a story about a life-changing experience that she had 35 years ago, in 1882, when she was about 14 or 15 years old. Most of “The Cursed” consists of Charlotte’s flashback memories to this point in time in her life.
The teenage Charlotte (played by Amelia Crouch) lives with her family in a very isolated small village, which does not have a name in the movie. And as is typical for a horror movie, this village is near a heavily wooded area. The village is presumably in England, since the residents have English accents, but there are a lot of people with French names in the village too. (“The Cursed” was actually filmed in France.)
Charlotte comes from a wealthy family whose patriarch, Seamus Laurent (played by Alistair Petrie), is a tyrant who’s used to getting what he wants. Seamus and his dutiful wife Isabelle Laurent (played by Kelly Reilly) are the parents of Charlotte and Edward (Max Mackintosh), who’s about 11 or 12 years old when this story takes place. They all live in a mansion that will soon become hub of supernatural and terrifying activities.
Seamus is not only a bully, but he’s also greedy and racist. In an early scene in the movie, he and several other men are having dinner at his home and conspire to take land away from the gypsies who are living in an outdoor camp on this property. Meanwhile, an unnamed gypsy woman (played by Pascale Becouze), who appears to be the gypsies’ spiritual leader, tells her tribe that a storm is coming. She says of an unnamed entity: “We have protected it for generations. It has protected us for generations.” Then she begins chanting.
It isn’t long before Seamus and his group of marauders invade the gypsy camp on horseback and armed with guns. A massacre occurs that will be very hard for sensitive viewers to watch. The gypsies who aren’t shot to death are captured, tortured, and murdered in other ways.
The gypsy leader has an unnamed male companion (played by Jicey Carina), who is a blacksmith. They both suffer the cruel fate of being tortured before dying. He is strung up like a scarecrow and hanged to death. She is thrown into a shallow grave and buried alive.
Before she is buried alive in this grave, Seamus and his men steal from her a denture mold of a human mouth that has silver teeth, because they want the silver. Of course, the gypsy woman is no ordinary spiritual leader. She is somehow connected to the supernatural, and she places a curse on the murderers who have massacred her tribe. And you know what that means in a horror movie.
Meanwhile, a pathologist named John McBride (played by Boyd Holbrook) has arrived in the village to investigate what appears to be a series of animal attacks. The villagers are starting to suspect that this is no ordinary animal but something supernatural and evil. John is a scientist whose beliefs about the supernatural evolve, based on what he experiences during his stay in this village. John is also a widower who has his own tragic story that’s eventually revealed.
Not long after this murder spree, Edward starts having nightmares of seeing the gypsy leader coming to attack him in the same field where she died. Edward has no idea about the terrible crimes his father Seamus has committed, so Edward is frightened and confused by what he’s seeing in his nightmares. The wives and children of the massacre killers also have no knowledge that these husbands and fathers have committed these heinous crimes.
One of these children is Timmy Adam (played by Tommy Rodger), who is about 11 or 12 years old. Timmy is the son of John Adam (played by Sean Mahon), one of the men involved in the gypsy massacre. One day, Timmy and Edward are outside playing when Timmy finds the denture mold with the silver teeth. Timmy then viciously bites Edward on the neck, while Charlotte (who is nearby and witnesses this attack) runs away to get help.
Edward is wounded, but it’s not fatal. The doctor treating Edward tells the Laurent family that the bite wound looks like Edward was attacked by a wild animal. The wound is infected, but the doctor gives some medicine to treat it. Not long after this bite attack, while Edward is bedridden during his recovery, Charlotte starts seeing strange things in Edward’s room at night, such as slimy creatures coming out of Edward while he’s in bed.
And then, Edward mysteriously disappears from the home without any of his family members seeing him leave. His family finds out that he’s missing the next morning, when they see that he’s nowhere in the house. Timmy has no memory of biting Edward, and he is among the villagers who participate in the frantic search for Edward. Edward’s disappearance leads to more people vanishing or being murdered in the village. And the murders seem to be coming from a wolf-like animal.
The rest of “The Cursed” shows the mystery behind what’s happening in this plagued village. The werewolf creature is not a typical hairy monster with fangs. The movie does some clever re-imagining of werewolf lore, in terms of how this creature looks and how it attacks. Fabien Houssaye, Carl Laforêt and Miko Abouaf are the three actors who portray this werewolf creature in “The Cursed.”
One of the best things about “The Cursed” is that it looks convincing as a story that takes place in the years that it takes place, due in large part to the authentic-looking production design and costume design. The most terrifying scenes in the movie are absolutely gripping. And although there are some predictable jump scares, not everything in the movie is formulaic.
“The Cursed” writer/director Ellis is also the movie’s cinematographer. He infuses the movie with a lot of brown and gray tones that make the movie look foreboding instead of drab. Likewise, the camera angles keep audiences feeling a certain tension that anything can happen, even when the movie’s pacing tends to slow down.
Holbrook and Reilly have the standout roles as John and Isabelle, because they are the adults in the story with the best moral compass. All of the cast members do well in their performances, but no one is going to be nominated for any major awards for this movie, whose dialogue can be a bit forgettable. “The Cursed” is a solid addition to werewolf movies that should satisfy most horror fans who like a horror film to have an intriguing mystery along with the frightening scenes.
LD Entertainment released “The Cursed” in U.S. cinemas on February 18, 2022. The movie was released on digital and VOD on March 15, 2022. “The Cursed” is set for release on Blu-ray and DVD on May 10, 2022.