The Cursed (2021) poster

The Cursed (2021)


aka Eight for Silver

USA. 2021.


Director/Screenplay/Photography – Sean Ellis, Producers – Sean Ellis, Mickey Liddell & Pete Shilaimon, Music – Robin Foster, Visual Effects – CGEV – La Compagnie Generale des Effets Visuels/Noid (Supervisors – David Fonseca, Abdou Karimi & Chervin Shafaghi) & Unit Film & TV Limited (Supervisors – Anthony Chadwick & Adam Thornton-Dewhurst), Special Effects Supervisor – Charles-Axel Vollard, Makeup Effects/Animatronics Supervisor – Jean-Christophe Spadaccini, Production Design – Pascal Le Guellec. Production Company – Liddell Entertainment.


Boyd Holbrook (John McBride), Alistair Petrie (Seamus Laurent), Kelly Reilly (Isabelle Laurent), Amelia Crouch (Charlotte Laurent), Roxane Duran (Anais Page), Max Mackintosh (Edward Laurent), Nigel Betts (Lieutenant Alfred Moliere), Tommy Rodger (Timmy Adams), Stuart Bowman (Saul), Simon Kunz (Griffin), Pascale Becouze (Gypsy Woman)


Rural France, 1882. Gypsies have rightful title to some of the lands of the lord of the manor Seamus Laurent. Instead, he orders them driven off the land. When one of the Gypsies fights back, the locals sever his hands and feet then stuff the body with straw and raise it as a scarecrow, while the Gypsy woman who curses them is buried alive in the field. Some time later, Timmy, one of the children from the village, leads the other children to the field and digs beneath the scarecrow to find a set of silver teeth buried in a container. After putting the teeth in, Timmy turns and bites Seamus’s son Edward. Edward is brought home in a fevered state. John McBride, a visiting pathologist in the town, is brought in but Edward has vanished. As a search of the surrounding area is begun for Edward, a wolf creature begins preying on people in the area. McBride has experience dealing with something similar when he was stationed in Gevaudan. Increasingly, he believes that the creature attacking people is supernatural in nature and is a curse enacted by the Gypsies over how they were treated.

I was very impressed with British director Sean Ellis after seeing his first film Cashback (2006) about a young guy who works in a supermarket and appears to have the ability to freeze time. I have kept a fascinated eye on Ellis’s career since then. He subsequently went onto make the modestly effective The Brøken (2008) about body snatchers that emerge from mirrors and the non-genre likes of the heist thriller Metro Manila (2012) and the WWII drama Anthropoid (2016), all of which are well worthwhile works.

The Cursed is being called a Werewolf Film. Quite whether it is or isn’t is left ambiguous. The creature attacking people is said to be a wolf, although when we actually see it, it looks like a large grey rat about the size of a mastiff but has no hair. Certainly, it does have vulnerability to silver but there are no other traditional accoutrements of lycanthropy such as the full moon. So quite what you want to make of it is deliberately ambiguous. In setting, what The Cursed reminds of more than anything is Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001) about the hunt for a possibly supernatural beast in 18th Century France.

Far more than the question of it being werewolf film, The Cursed reads more like a work about a Curse being visited on the wealthy and entitled. Indeed, along with other films like Slaxx (2020), Candyman (2021) and The Feast (2021), it could be said that this is part of a new wave of films that show the world of Western cultural privilege under attack by peoples it has abused or repressed, while in films like Last Night in Soho (2021) and The Power (2021) we see the past rising up against the patriarchal system.

Alistair Petrie as Seamus Laurent leads the search for his missing son in The Cursed (2021)
Alistair Petrie as Seamus Laurent (front centre) leads the search for his missing son

I like Sean Ellis as a director – his films are smart and intelligent and he shows a measured control in the director’s seat. Here Ellis also acts as the cinematographer and the film takes place in mist-limned countryside where the colours have been muted to a uniform grey-green. As a result, the whole film seems to take place inside an exquisite dream-like period setting. (That said, the period setting seems all over the place – the wraparound opens in 1917, while the main action is said to be 35 years earlier, which would place us in 1882. Boyd Holbrook is still using a breech-loading musket at a time when a repeating rifle would have been readily available. The setting is France but the names seem an odd mix of French and English – Alistair Petrie has the French surname Laurent but the very Irish name of Seamus for some reason).

Ellis sets up sequences that have undeniable effect. The scene early on where the villagers hold down the Gypsy man, sever his hands and feet, stuff them with straw and then mount the body as a scarecrow sets everything up with undeniably grim effect. This has an unsettling follow-up where Tommy Rodger leads the children into the field, digs up the teeth and puts them in his mouth before abruptly turning to bite Max Mackintosh. All before Mackintosh is brought home and the bed covers are pulled back to show a momentary image of his body writhing with tentacles.

Ellis keeps the appearances of the creature brief – we only get half glimpses of it for two-thirds of the film. Its’ full appearance does end up looking like an obvious CGI effect, which may well be one of the reasons why Ellis keeps it to the shadows. The standout scene is one where an autopsy is conducted on the creature shot by Boyd Holbrook – something that approaches the outré outlandishness of The Thing (1982) as the body is cut open and a child’s face starts trying to force its way out from within. Ellis does bring it all together for a ferocious climactic showdown.

Trailer here

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