Despite being such an iconic creature of folklore, the werewolf is one monster that seems to have trouble finding its place in cinema. ‘The Cursed,’ the newest film to center on the concept of werewolves, looks to etch its name on the list of noteworthy films.
When asked, most people will tell you their favorite film to feature a werewolf is either ‘An American Werewolf in London’ or ‘The Howling.’ An endless debate will almost always be waged about which is the better of the two.
Outside of these two films, one might say their other favorites to feature the nocturnal monster are ‘Gingersnaps’, ‘Bad Moon’, ‘Dog Soldiers’, or the film adaptation of Stephen King’s ‘Silver Bullet.’ Perhaps you’re a fan of the original Universal monster movies which featured Lon Chaney Jr.’s ‘Wolf Man’ or you consider ‘Underworld’ to be a noteworthy werewolf film.
This list might make it seem like there are a lot of decent werewolf movies to choose from, but it’s significantly small when compared to the list of films that feature vampires, witches, or even the undead.
‘The Cursed’ develops its take on the werewolf lore that has been built up over the years. Silver still appears to be the primary method of disposing of the creatures, but in this new film, those who become infected appear to undergo a metamorphosis that initially appears to be permanent. Gone is the transformation by the full moon. Once bitten, the victim endures an agonizing change into a beast – a change that appears to be rooted in a curse placed upon the land. The soiled ground itself is seeking revenge for those wrongfully slain and buried underneath it.
The film centers around a group of townsfolk who refuse to acknowledge a land claim made by a group of gypsies. Instead of honoring the agreement and giving up the land, they choose to dispose of the perceived freeloaders by brutality slaughtering the tribe.
A defiant member of the group suffers the worst fate. After his limbs are hacked off, he is ridiculed further by being strung up like a scarecrow, a figure that will later come to haunt the dreams of the innocent members of the community.
The aforementioned curse is then placed upon the land and all those who dwell upon it.
Soon the town’s children begin to suffer the wrath of the curse as they begin to receive nightmarish visions of the scarecrow and a particular set of silver teeth that, it is insinuated, are made from the very same silver Judas received for betraying Jesus.
Plagued by the visions, one of the children seeks out and reveals to the others that he has found the scarecrow from their dreams. Foolishly, he leads them to the spot and then digs up the fangs from their nightmares.
Compelled by an unseen force, he places the silver teeth in his mouth and lashes out, sinking the teeth into Edward, the son of Seamus, the man who led the slaughter of the gypsies. Like the torment Judas received for his sins, so is Edward tormented by the sins of his father as the cursed silver begins to cause an unholy transformation within Edward.
We are then introduced to pathologist John McBride, who serves as a Van Helsing type character and who reveals that the incident involving Edward, and recent animal attacks, are the work of a curse which spreads through contact with the wolf-like creature.
Taking on the hero role, McBride must now save the town and release the infected from their living nightmare.
‘The Cursed’ is a slow burn, with the majority of the action taking place off-screen. Most of the screen time is dedicated to showcasing the mounting strain that has begun to build amongst the townsfolk and the realization of the horror that has now infected their community as a result of their actions.
That’s not to say that this film about werewolves doesn’t feature the creature. The filmmaker just knows that sometimes less is more. This lack of monster screen time helps to build the tension of the film; as a viewer, you’re left wondering when and where the creature will strike next.
When we do see the werewolf on screen, it’s usually followed by carnage. For a movie that favors dialogue, ‘The Cursed’ isn’t afraid to turn up the gore factor when needed. The removal of appendages seems to be the heavy favorite, as it’s not uncommon to see people having their feet and arms cut off throughout the movie. We also bear witness to the aftermath of the horror inflicted upon those unlucky enough to cross paths with the monster.
The highlight of the film comes when one of the werewolves is slain by McBride. He proceeds to cut open the beast to reveal that the infected human is trapped inside, alive, but a shadow of their former self; a victim of a living nightmare.
‘The Cursed’ will not be for everyone, as it relies heavily on the in-between moments to carry the story forward. The fear of what is coming is favored over the more in your face horror.
This can make the film drag at times. As for the script that appears to be mostly dialogue, you develop little attachment to any of the characters, save for McBride, who the film seems to primarily focus on after his arrival.
On a scale of 1-5 stars, I give ‘The Cursed’ 3.5 stars.
While it won’t knock ‘An American Werewolf in London’ or ‘The Howling’ off the top spot, ‘The Cursed’ should be worthy of being added to your top five werewolf films.