Following a zombie virus that ravages Europe and most of all Ireland, those who have been cured of it are now trying to reintegrate into society - but are burdened both by the memories of what they've done and the prejudices against them. When a young man (Sam Keeley) returns to his sister-in-law (Ellen Page), he finds himself increasingly marginalised and manipulated by a charismatic leader (Tom Vaughn-Lawlor) in the ex-zombie community.
An original concept in the zombie genre is difficult, to say the least, primarily because the sheer volume of output is such that trying to find one is difficult. With David Freyne's The Cured, there's two unique factors at play - one is the idea of former zombies/infected trying to rehabilitate after an apocalypse, and the second is how the outcome of this would effect people. What would the world look like after the apocalypse, and more importantly, how would society react to them? What would it be like seeing someone you know, who became infected and subsequently went on a rampage, returning home who's now free of said infection? Would you greet them as a lost soul or shut the door? And if you did shut the door, where would they turn?
While a lot of these questions may be answered throughout the film, it's the exploration of them makes The Cured so interesting. Sam Keeley and Tom Vaughn-Lawlor both bring a sense of authenticity and realism to their performances, particularly Keeley who's able to portray trauma damage and vulnerability so easily in his character. Vaughn-Lawlor, meanwhile, slips between being insidiously charismatic to outright menacing in the bat of an eye and is perfectly cast as the nascent leader of ex-zombie community. The odd one out is, unfortunately, Ellen Page, who plays a plucky journalist and also Keeley's on-screen sister-in-law who takes him in. While an outsider's view is necessary, there's almost a sense that Page's character has been air-dropped into the film and that has a certain clunkiness to it. There's also a subplot involving the hugely underrated Paula Malcolmson, who plays a doctor intent on curing her lover of the virus, that could have been easily spun off into its own story and another one involving the military - Stuart Graham - trying to maintain order in an increasingly destablised world.
In fact, the main problem with The Cured is that while the ideas are unique and intriguing, and the script itself is sharp and knowing, the execution of it is let down by a budget that can't hope to match it. Indeed, there's so much going on that you almost wish it was turned into a miniseries so that each strand or subplot of the film could be examined more thoroughly. The film does keep a tight watch on the running time, and by the time the third act rolls around, the action kicks up a notch and continues full tilt into the finale. Again, the budget can't match the ambition of it all, but it's still exciting to see thrills and spills take place in a familiar setting for Irish audiences.
Overall, The Cured is an ambitious attempt to bring genre horror into the Irish film landscape and while it may be lacking in the execution, it more than makes up for it with a fascinating premise and strong performances by the ensemble cast.