Dara Higgins on post-virus outbreak horror The Cured
The ‘post-mysterious virus outbreak‘ genre isn’t new. The sight of martial law on the streets as a society tries to rebuild, or of a ruined metropolis that failed to fight the creeping death are seeming less and less like entertainment and more like documentaries from the future. It feels, right now, as if we are in the backstory of all future apocalypses. All we need is some megalomaniacal simpleton with no actual human empathy in one of the highest positions of world power and we’re sorted for near obliteration. Oh.
David Freyne’s The Cured offers a morsel of hope. The virus that infected huge swathes of the Irish population turning them from top-o-the-morning pig thieves into blood streaked, rage infused mentallers has been cured. The government have a hold of the situation. Those still infected are locked up and those who were infected, wreaked havoc and killed before capture, have been cured. The Cured have to go through a transition before being let back into society. After all, these are the people who roamed the streets ripping out throats with their teeth. And what’s more, despite being in the throes of infection, they can remember all the violence they perpetrated.
Senan (Sam Keeley) is one such Cured. He’s haunted by what’s happened and the nightmares that wake him every night. He’s released back into society to live with his sister in law, Abbie (Ellen Page adding a touch of the Hollywood), and his nephew. Senan’s brother didn’t survive the outbreak, and Senan is tormented by that too. To add insult to injury the Cured are given menial jobs and treated like second class citizens. They’re untrustworthy. They’re shunned. They have no voice.
Senan’s BFF from Infected Camp, Conor (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, who’s fantastic), has the hump because before he started eating faces he was a barrister and is now reduced to being a street sweeper. He becomes invested in a group of fellow Cured, obsessed with their rights and how to make the government sit up and take notice of their plight. As the film progresses their methods become more extreme, pushing Senan, who’s conflicted, out. But that’s not good enough for Conor. He wants Senan by his side as, through flashback, we’re shown their relationship is deeper than we once assumed.
The Cured isn’t a scarefest. It isn’t about screeching and gore. It’s not in the classic sense a film about surviving an outbreak, more about how to negotiate the aftermath of an outbreak. The idea that a rage infected killer might be conscious enough to remember the chaos they wrought, but were, due to the virus, unable to stop it, is chilling. But it works on more levels than that. It’s about trying to integrate into society as an outsider. You can read that any way you want. The cured weren’t in control of their actions, but should they still be accountable? Like refugees, returning soldiers from a war, the people who tried to convince you that Justin Timberlake was good back in the early Noughties. People who’ve done things we don’t want to think about but now stand next to us in the queue at Tesco. Given that the virus in question is called The Maze it’s tempting to read it as some kind of statement on The Good Friday agreement, the people who perpetrated war and atrocity once upon a time now walk among us. In the end, it asks the question: Can we forgive? It’s a difficult one, cos let’s face it, Timberlake is shite. Always was.