Zombie movies have been around since the early 1930s but the fundamental formula hasn’t much changed. Certain elements have, of course, been tweaked; nowadays the “Z” label is rarely used and the undead condition attributed to a virus rather than the supernatural, but when it comes to the narrative the vast majority of films are focused on the events before and/or during an outbreak.
From Victor Halperin’s 1932 film White Zombie through to the 1960s with George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, and more recently, with 21st Century offerings like Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later or Yeon Sang-ho’s Train to Busan, the genre’s main focus has been on survival. Rarely does a zombie movie move past the stage of flesh-eating violence but with the arrival of The Cured, we have an exploration of life after the undead.
The BBC’s Into the Flesh tread this path on the small screen but now David Freyne, making his feature film debut, examines life in a post-zombie outbreak world with his rather understated addition to the genre. Set in Ireland, The Cured follows a couple of former zombies and their struggle as they are reintroduced into a society that considers them less than human.
“When I got sent David’s scripts I was just really into it,” Ellen Page, who is both star and producer on the film. “I thought it was a great new idea; it moved me and compelled me to a level that you don’t necessarily expect for this kind of movie to do.”
Page plays Abbie, the American sister-in-law of former zombie Senan (Sam Keeley) and a videographer documenting Dublin’s post-outbreak regeneration. Unlike many other citizens, she has opened up her home to her late husband’s brother and becomes embroiled in the politics of the situation that sees ‘the cured’ restricted to menial labour and under constant control by the government.
Political allegory has long been a feature of the horror movie genre, ever since Romero cast black actor Duane Jones in Night of the Living Dead as his hero, but then had him executed by a mob in scenes reminiscent to horrific photos of lynchings in the US. Wes Craven’s The People Under the Stairs, Samuel Fuller’s White Dog, and Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining continued this trend of political and social commentary and Page recognises that the genre has returned to this type of form.
“I look back to movies like The Shining and I think this film fits into a sort of space where intelligent horror movies are being made,” she explained. “Where it’s more than just scares.”
The Cured follows in the footsteps of films like Get Out, It Comes At Night, A Ghost Story, The Babadook, and A Quiet Place as an antidote to the gore-heavy franchise films that seem to be more focused on shock value than an intelligent narrative.
“It does indeed look like [the genre’s] changing,” Page said. “It’s exciting.”
It’s not only the horror genre’s return to form that the actress-producer is happy about. Page became a global name after landing the role of Kitty Pryde in the X-Men franchise and now, 12 years after she debuted the role in The Last Stand, a solo movie has been confirmed for her character, making it Fox’s second female-led Marvel movie since 2005’s Elektra.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t mean that the actress will get to lead the film; with Disney’s acquisition of Fox it could mean the studio go for a rebooted story featuring a new actress as Pryde. But Page has come to terms with this. “Of course it would have been lovely [to reprise the role] as she’s a great character,” she noted. “But this is what happens, it’s how it works.”
However, she is hopeful that the movie will be the beginning of many more featuring women and people of colour taking the lead. “As audience members, I’m sure I’m speaking for everybody, that we want to see those films,” Page said. “Hopefully we’ll see that change in terms of the climate that Hollywood is in now.”
The Cured is in cinemas this Friday, May 11