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film review

In director Sean Ellis's The Cursed, a mysterious, possibly supernatural menace threatens a small village in rural 19th-century France.Courtesy of Elevation Pictures

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The Cursed

Directed by Sean Ellis

Written by Sean Ellis

Starring Boyd Holbrook, Kelly Reilly, Alistair Petrie

Classification 14A; 113 minutes

Opens in theatres Feb. 18

Although The Cursed is set in the French countryside of the late 1800s, the handsome gothic horror film opens on a battlefield of the ghastly First World War. A surgeon pulls a silver bullet from a unanesthetized soldier. “That’s not a German bullet,” he says, puzzled. Cue the howling at the moon – this is a werewolf film, the viewers should know. But there is no ow-woo to be had. This is no ordinary slash-and-snarl fandango.

The (somewhat convoluted) story involves a landowner who orders the massacre of a band of Roma, thus triggering a well-earned curse. The slaughter scene is filmed from a distance – the viewer is voyeur and the inhumanity is heightened.

The curse begins with bad dreams and progresses to supernatural monsters and missing children. John McBride (a pathologist with a past, played seriously by Boyd Holbrook) is summoned to investigate the danger. The village-terrorizing beasts encountered are slimy, not furry, but killable with silver bullets nonetheless.

Originally titled Eight for Silver, the film from British writer-director Sean Ellis is brooding, uneasy and fog-filled, with an apprehensive soundscape. Werewolf mythology mixes with biblical allusions and ideas on payments for the sins of elders.

The gore is good but not gratuitous, with a reverse Alien conceit at work. There are no typical scenes of lupine transformation, and scarecrows are eerily reconsidered. From top to bottom, the acting is high class. Clap for filmmaker Ellis, whose wolfman-ish movie has more style and originality than most of its kind.

The Cursed is brooding, uneasy and fog-filled, with an apprehensive soundscape as it mixes werewolf mythology with biblical allusions and ideas on payments for the sins of elders.Courtesy of Elevation Pictures

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