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Film Review: ‘The Cursed’ Has Scares But Too Much Dead Weight

Alistair Petrie, Amelia Crouch and Simon Kunz appear in Eight for Silver by Sean Ellis, an official selection of the Premieres section at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Sean Ellis. All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or 'Courtesy of Sundance Institute.' Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.
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A gothic horror tale is not necessarily where you go to get a gore-fest. The period trappings and air of class don’t exactly mesh with a bloodbath. However, when you mix in a werewolf legend, all bets are off. With The Cursed (which played last year at the Sundance Film Festival under the title of Eight for Silver), that’s all being mixed together, with somewhat successful results. Unfortunately, while the bits that work really work, everything is fairly bland and just stretches out the runtime. When your movie runs nearly two hours, especially when it’s a horror flick, it had better use the time well. This one does not, torpedoing a work that should have been a slam dunk success.

The Cursed has some excellent horror moments, but they’re unfortunately spaced out between a lot of nothingness. The slog that you have to get through in order to find the next solid scare is a bit too much to make the endeavor worthwhile. The potential of a werewolf in this sort of story is immense, but it’s at best only a partially realized vision.

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Set in rural 19th-century France, one bad decision is about to have a bloody ripple effect across an entire settlement. Land baron Seamus Laurent (Alistair Petrie) and other elders have decided to take property from a Roma clan, slaughtering them in the process. Unfortunately, one of the gypsies puts a curse on his family and the village at large. In short order, townspeople are plagued by vivid nightmares, especially the children, while Seamus’s son Edward (Max Mackintosh) goes missing. Then, a boy is brutally murdered. Something is hunting these people, and it shows no signs of stopping.

As the killings continue, the locals suspect a wild animal is the culprit, though more supernatural elements are murmured about. It’s visiting pathologist John McBride (Boyd Holbrook) who warns of a more sinister presence lurking in the woods. In fact, he believes that a werewolf is on the loose. It’ll be up to John, as well as Seamus and his wife Isabelle (Kelly Reilly), to make sure that the entire settlement isn’t devoured. Easier said than done, of course, especially as they learn more about what’s at play here.

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The cast certainly buys into the premise. While I wouldn’t say there’s a standout performer, they all do solid work, helping this seem far less silly than it otherwise would be. Boyd Holbrook probably needed some more scenes to really invest in him, but you do hope that the Alistair Petrie and Kelly Reilly don’t see full ruin come to their family. Supporting players include the aforementioned Max Mackintosh, as well as Nigel Betts, Stuart Bowman, Amelia Crouch, Tommy Rodger, and more.

Filmmaker Sean Ellis clearly loves Hammer horror. The gothic and period feel of The Cursed is imbued with a style Hammer fans will recognize. Unfortunately, while Ellis’ visuals are on point, his script is too thin for his lax pacing. Moreover, the characters aren’t layered enough for you to care about. That would be fine if they were just intended to be werewolf fodder, but that’s not the intent. Ellis wants you to mourn as the body count rises, but nothing here compels you to.

The Cursed has some truly gnarly moments. A climactic attack really showcases some werewolf brutality. Those moments, or some of the early historical bits, they resonate. Everything else? That’s a bit of a chore to sit through. Patient horror fans will be somewhat satisfied, but those hoping for consistent terror will be at least a little bit let down. Alas…

SCORE: ★★1/2

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Written by Joey Magidson

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