The children are not alright, either are the townspeople as something wicked comes their way in The Cursed the newest film from Sean Ellis.
Director Sean Ellis’ The Cursed is folk horror done right. A slow burn ever-tightening story of a town doomed because of its own prejudicial paranoia that spurned mob violence.
In the waning days of the 19th century in France landowner Seamus Laurent (Alistair Petrie) allows for the outright slaughter of a group of Roma (e.g., nomadic people, this reviewer will not call them the derogatory term that begins with a “G”). Laurent does not understand his problems are just beginning. Something altogether more sinister than any Roma begins its grasp on the townspeople. Nightmares begin to plague them as children and men are murdered. The only real hope is a traveling pathologist John McBride (Boyd Holbrook).
There’s a refreshing amount of intimacy to the proceedings that adds to the chilling and haunting nature of The Cursed. Yes, there are thrills and traditional horror scares, but the film written by Ellis is one about the terrible decisions made and the price paid for them. Like any truly great horror film, The Cursed, is about more than just about a curse and monster that plagues a town. Many will find Ellis’ film chillingly modern with the dynamics of who is in charge and what they do with issues they deem to be a problem.
The film is smart about its budget constraints never showing its hand. Rather the film executes its special effects, make-up effects, and set pieces with an adroit touch that Ellis has found the sweet spot in previous work (see the equally smart but very different WW2 Thriller Anthropoid for further proof). Though it isn’t just the smart decisions. It’s the way the entire piece is artfully executed. With a specific style and emotional resonance that elevates this genre material.
In the end, The Cursed is smart genre filmmaking that pushes beyond films of similar ilk and prestige with its truly haunting end. An end that will stay with one after the fade to black.