THE CURSED Movie Poster | ©2022 Neon

THE CURSED Movie Poster | ©2022 Neon

Rating: Not Rated
Stars: Boyd Holbrook, Kelly Reilly, Alistair Petrie, Roxane Duran, Amelia Crouch, Max Mackintosh, Pascale Becouze, Tommy Rodger
Writer: Sean Ellis
Director: Sean Ellis
Distributor: Neon
Release Date: February 18, 2022

THE CURSED (not to be confused with director Wes Craven’s 2005 contemporary werewolf movie CURSED) is a new take on the Beast of Gévaudan legend.

To be more precise, director/writer Sean Ellis positions his THE CURSED as a kind of sequel to that legend. Those who are not familiar with this piece of French folklore need not fear – it will be explained to us in due course.

THE CURSED opens at the 1917 WWI Battle of the Somme. The soldiers in the trenches are being bombarded with poisonous gas and shrapnel. Then we’re in a hospital tent, where doctors are hurriedly operating, without the aid of anesthetics, on badly wounded men. One doctor pulls two regular bullets out of a patient – and then fishes out a silver bullet.

Then it’s thirty-five years earlier, and we’re in a pleasant-looking region of rural France. Child siblings Charlotte (Amelia Crouch) and Edward (Max Mackintosh) are playing in their parents’ mansion.

The children’s father, Seamus Laurent (Alistair Petrie), is head of the local landowners. They are not happy when a community of Roma move onto a field, and are less happy still when the Roma rightfully lay claim to the grounds.

Sanctioned by Seamus, the landowners’ solution is to pay mercenaries to massacre the Roma. The sequence is horrifically brutal. We frankly don’t blame the Roma elder (Pascale Becouze) one bit when she uses a denture-like set of fanged silver teeth to curse the lot of her tormentors.

Thereafter, the local children – Charlotte and Max included – begin dreaming of the field and the silver teeth. As the curse starts to play out, a traveling pathologist (Boyd Holbrook) arrives to investigate matters.

THE CURSED is intriguing partly because of the way it upends our sympathies. Yes, the children are complete innocents in their fathers’ sins, but we’re still so traumatized by the decimation of the Roma that we still reflexively sympathize with the curse.

Writer/director Ellis, who serves as his own cinematographer, shot THE CURSED in France. He sets an engrossing mythic mood, full of firelight and mist and bare-branched trees. It’s starkly beautiful and looks like what a lot of us envision when reading horror folklore.

The creature effects are an interesting change from what we might be expecting, though the credits make it difficult to figure out exactly who is responsible for the design. “Creature look development” was done by Olivier Lourry and Abdou Karimi and the creature supervisor was Marceau Leger. Gore effects are graphic.

THE CURSED is one of those movies where actors with English accents play French people. This isn’t a problem, but it’s curious that Holbrook’s John McBride, has more or less the same accent as everyone else, even though his name suggests the character is a foreigner (Holbrook is in fact from Kentucky, doing a decent British voice). We wait in vain for any significance to come from this fact; it seems like it might have been easier to simply have him be from outside of the region.

A more significant matter is that, although we get a back story for McBride, and some deep emotion from village boy Timmy (Tommy Rodger), THE CURSED is a little light on characterization. We wonder what’s going to happen, and everything is creepy and looks great, but we don’t actually care very much about anyone’s fate. This decreases suspense and overall impact.

Further, the prologue sets us up for a big payoff in the epilogue that never arrives. Apart from the filmmaker’s desire to get in some WWI action, it’s unclear how this is meant to add perspective to the body of the film.

THE CURSED is handsome and atmospheric horror; it just doesn’t make much of an impression emotionally.

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