The Cursed

When a gypsy caravan settles in Seamus Laurent’s (Alistair Petrie, "The Bank Job") field with a claim to his land, a priest recommends hiring a band of mercenaries to drive them off.  Instead they ride in shooting, setting fire to the encampment, dismembering its blacksmith (Jicey Carina) and hoisting him up as a scarecrow while burying an old woman (Pascale Becouze), who promises to ‘poison your dreams,’ alive.  Laurent’s family will meet retribution as “The Cursed.”

Laura's Review: B

Writer/cinematographer/director Sean Ellis ("Anthropoid") puts a modern, fresh spin on the Gothic horror genre and the tired old tropes of gypsy curses and werewolves and makes them effective all over again in his eerie, haunting production.  By highlighting injustices against the nomadic Roma by the wealthy elite and elevating the artistry used to tell his tale, Ellis should surprise those jaded by Gothic folklore.

Soon after we’ve witnessed the horrifying and barbaric attack on the gypsies, Charlotte (Amelia Crouch) Laurent begins to have nightmares about a spooky scarecrow.  ‘I’ve seen it,’ village boy Timmy (Tommy Rodger, TV's 'The Alienist') tells the children who’ve gathered to play but begun to whisper, leading them out into the field where the corpse still hangs.  ‘How many of you have dreamt of the scarecrow and the silver teeth?’ Timmy asks the assembled, who all raise their hands.  When he notes something buried, Timmy tries to recruit a volunteer, but Charlotte dares him to dig it up.  The silver teeth that had been buried with the gypsy woman are unearthed and Timmy puts them in his mouth – and promptly attacks Charlotte’s younger brother Edward (Max Mackintosh).

Ellis knows how to raise gooseflesh with such sights as European crows curiously circling a small patch of grass or the path of something unseen approaching across a field.  Those silver teeth the gypsy blacksmith fashions like a fanged set of dentures are a great prop as well (reflecting the film’s far superior original title, “Eight for Silver,” referencing, along with Álex de la Iglesia’s HBO series ’30 Coins,’ the payment made to Judas).   An overhead shot of folks carrying torches through a forest has never been quite this atmospheric.  Robin Foster’s score sports eerie strings and moaning cellos, adding to the sense of impending doom.  The Church, often pictured vanquishing evil, here stands beside it, Timmy reappearing in a confessional to advise Charlotte they’re all going to die.  The filmmaker dispenses with the usual werewolf transformation scene, instead offering flashes of a humanoid creature attacking like a four legged predator.  As cases of animal attacks are joined by the more political case of the missing Laurent boy, pathologist John McBride (Boyd Holbrook, 2018's "The Predator") arrives to investigate.

A WWI prologue set thirty-five years after the film’s central events plunges us into bloody reality, Ellis’s unique introduction of a silver bullet keeping us guessing until the end.  Those drawn to the film because of the presence of ‘Yellowstone’s’ Kelly Reilly will find her much subdued here, her Isabelle Laurent fiercely protective of her children but wary around her husband.

Sean Ellis has jumped around genres but after his evocative “The Cursed,” one hopes he returns to this one.

Robin's Review: B

LD Entertainment releases "The Cursed" in theaters on 2/18/22.