The Cursed 2022 Movie Review
Period shapeshifter horror The Cursed (which played last year’s festival circuit under the more memorable and unique title Eight for Silver) isn’t for the faint of heart – but then, it’s not for those expecting an immediate bloodletting, either. It’s a cool, cold, mist-shrouded glimpse of beasts in the undergrowth, until they leap out with snapping teeth, rending bodies to splatter the countryside.
The reserve comes from the setting: late-19th century France, where pathologist John McBride (a very mannered Holbrook) is summoned to a remote estate when Edward (Mackintosh), the young son of cruel local landlord Seamus Laurent (Petrie), disappears. However, the trail of dead bodies, desecrated by something inhuman, show that this is more than just a standard abduction or wandering child.
Director Sean Ellis took on monster hunting of a different kind in Nazi-killer drama Anthropoid, but there’s a similar sense of dour gloom in this historical horror. His script hews close to the old idea that lycanthropy (of which this is some hideous form) is not some shapeshifting liberation, but a monstrous burden, with the infected doomed and damned to murder without compassion or control, their only relief being that they have no idea what they have done.
Indeed, The Cursed owes great debts to the original Wolfman, Universal’s Lawrence Talbot, with its rich mélange of gothic horror, aristocratic settings, historic curses, and Roma wisdom at the edges of genteel society. However, this is much more savage: In George Waggner’s 1941 classic, the Roma are as much a victim of the curse as poor Larry. Here, Ellis lets them use it as vengeance from the grave for horrendous crimes committed against them by Laurent, depicted initially at jarring distance before pulling in for a scene that can only be described as a violation. No wonder, that moment suggests, they turn to savage and supernatural retribution against the powerful.
The richness of The Cursed’s mythology sometimes becomes a little cumbersome, as if Ellis tries to cram too many elements in without letting any one become the center of the story. Take the framing mechanism, set against the trench combat of World War I: Indeed, take it away, and it wouldn’t change much. Not everything has weight. The setting seems to be more to do with shooting in Cognac than any story-based specifics of location, or nods to the most famous of Gallic lycanthropes, the beast of Gévaudan (a story told with much more flair in Brotherhood of the Wolf). Instead, it just leaves some characters with very un-French names that never quite fit the locale.
But underneath those diversions and imperfections is one of the better werewolf movies of the last few decades, glimmering with tragedy. There are intriguing twists, like the role and history of the original title’s silver (still an important element, but in an ingenious new form). Moreover, The Cursed may be the most aggressively and unexpectedly gruesome shapeshifter movie since Oliver Reed wrought carnal and carnivorous chaos in The Curse of the Werewolf. Or maybe “werewolf” is the wrong term. Ellis plays with the idea of the beast as a travesty of nature, and comes up with the rarest of innovations: an actual new transformation concept. The Cursed may be a shaggy tale in places, but its bite is ultimately deep.