Review: ‘The Cursed’ is a serious, bold and artful werewolf movie
A unique take on werewolf folk tales, the arty monster movie “The Cursed” journeys to late 19th century Europe for a story that ties a persistent evil to the enduring stain of bigotry. A true auteur project for genre-hopping filmmaker Sean Ellis — who wrote, directed, co-produced and serves as the cinematographer — this period piece is slow-paced yet peppered with enough gory attacks and smartly staged scare sequences to appeal to horror connoisseurs.
Boyd Holbrook stars as John McBride, a pathologist who lost his family to a werewolf outbreak years ago. When he hears about a similar-sounding wave of humans turning into beasts at a French country estate run by the aristocratic Laurent family, McBride arrives to investigate … only to discover the Laurents aren’t exactly innocent victims.
For your safety
The Times is committed to reviewing theatrical film releases during the COVID-19 pandemic. Because moviegoing carries risks during this time, we remind readers to follow health and safety guidelines as outlined by the CDC and local health officials.
Ellis makes some bold choices with “The Cursed,” beginning with his opening scene set on a World War I battlefield. The death of a soldier — and the ominous retrieval of a silver bullet from his body — cues a flashback to decades earlier and the childhood of two privileged siblings living with their sour, lordly father, Seamus Laurent (Alistair Petrie), and their meek, sweet-natured mother, Isabelle (Kelly Reilly).
The trouble starts for the Laurents when Seamus and his peers hire a band of goons to slaughter the inhabitants of a Romany encampment on their lands. Ellis shoots the chilling scene in one long take, from a distance. Not long after, the elite’s children — beginning with the Laurents’ son Edward — start going missing, just as some locals turn up dead.
“The Cursed” features some superior body-horror moments, including one involving a particularly deadly set of metal dentures and another in which McBride cuts a mid-transformation werewolf victim out of a throbbing membrane. On the whole though, this is a fairly sedate and serious film, low on pulp thrills.
But it is engaging, thanks to the way Ellis captures its era: not just through striking low-light images but also through a pervasive sense of menace. In addition to the community’s werewolf problem, it’s also enduring a cholera epidemic and dealing with challenges to the old class system.
As problems mount, people like the Laurents keep making rash, shortsighted choices — and as “The Cursed” makes clear from the start, those kinds of mistakes can echo across generations.
Rating: R, for strong violence, grisly images and brief nudity
Running time: 1 hour, 55 minutes
Playing: In general release Feb. 18
It's a date
Get our L.A. Goes Out newsletter, with the week's best events, to help you explore and experience our city.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.