European battlefields prove fertile ground for werewolves

The Cursed is a sombre, gruesome take on classic conflict

The Cursed
Where: In theatres
What: Movie, 113 mins
When: Now
Genre: Horror
Why you should watch: A sombre yet gruesome take on the werewolf trope, The Cursed tells the tale of a village hexed after committing mass murder. Children go missing, others are attacked and a pathologist is called upon to help solve the mystery before it’s too late. With stunning visuals and subtle CGI, the monster’s image will stick with you like a bloody handprint on the wall.

If the poster doesn’t immediately give it away, the silver bullets in the first five minutes do — The Cursed is a werewolf film. You don’t have to be too heavily versed in werewolf folklore to make this connection, and writer and director Sean Ellis throws some of the lore out the window anyway. This isn’t a criticism — it’s refreshing.  

The film opens in the trenches of a First World War battle. We’re rushed to a medic tent and introduced to gore pretty quickly. Throughout the film, there’s blood splatters and rotting flesh, but none of it feels gratuitous. The film isn’t shrouded by over-the-top special effects and the result is a more realistic nightmare.

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From the bloodied war tent we cut to the French countryside 35 years earlier, and here the plot finally begins to evolve. The Cursed is a slow-burn film and, at times, the pacing is a tad chaotic, but it matches the disorder that unfolds around the main characters. We meet the Laurent family, whose property is being occupied by a Romani clan. The Romani have a rightful claim to the land, but as history has demonstrated countless times, these claims are wrongly ignored. A massacre occurs, and the viewer is forced to watch the slaughter from afar. It’s perhaps the most horrific scene because it’s simply man against man, with no mythical creature on which to lay blame.

The mass murder triggers a curse that sweeps through the village, primarily affecting the children. As mysterious attacks and disappearances mount, help is summoned in the form of John McBride, a handsome and secretive pathologist played by Boyd Holbrook (Narcos, Gone Girl). The cast is relatively small but mighty, with a standout performance from Kelly Reilly (Yellowstone, Sherlock Holmes) who expertly plays the part of an anguished mother who will do anything to protect her kin.

Most remarkable are the film’s visuals. The Cursed is incredibly grey and foggy, with scenic landscapes and only a few, well-placed jump scares. The brightest bit of colour comes from the orange torches used to search abandoned cabins and set fire to encampments. The dark, moody colour palette captures the villagers’ unease and uncertainty.

The Cursed still

Like all good horror films, The Cursed doesn’t reveal its monster right away. Ellis toys with our imaginations and challenges our preconceived image of a werewolf with each glimpse of an eye or fang. There are no fluffy hounds howling at the moon in this flick, but I won’t spoil the imagery entirely — I’ll let you uncover the horror for yourself.

Watch The Cursed trailer