THE CURED is the impressive first feature length film from writer/director David Freyne, and wow, it is intense. The story takes place in Ireland where several years ago, a zombie plague called the Maze virus infected a large part of the population. A cure for the virus was discovered and most of the infected were cured of their symptoms, but they retain all of their awful memories of the animalistic, blood thirsty cannibals that they became when they got sick. The film centers around Senan (Sam Keeley), who was cured of the virus, and now lives with his sister-in-law (Ellen Page) and her son. He suffers from terrifying flashbacks of the things he did while he was sick, including a dark, devastating secret. Even though they are no longer flesh eating zombies, the cured are shunned by the rest of society and held responsible for their past gruesome actions. This is definitely not just another zombie movie. This film makes some profound statements and Irish actor Sam Keeley does a magnificent job carrying the film as the central character. His performance is thought provoking and moving and he forces you to see him as a human being first, who just happened to be infected with a zombie virus. Sam is a phenomenal actor and despite the subject matter, he is an absolute delight to watch in this film. Before the film’s theatrical release on February 23rd, Michelle had the opportunity to speak with Sam about THE CURED.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Hi Sam! How are you doing? Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me.
Sam Keeley: Hi! I’m good! No problem at all. Thanks for watching the film!
Nightmarish Conjurings: Congratulations on THE CURED! You’re wonderful in it and I think it’s a really great film.
SK: Thank you so much. I really appreciate it!
Nightmarish Conjurings: THE CURED is much more than a zombie film. It goes a lot deeper than that and deals with emotions and human nature. What was it about THE CURED that appealed to you the most and how did you get the part?
SK: It was looking at a genre that we all know and love so well and a genre that can be done very well or very, very badly. I loved the angle that Dave took when he wrote it. The characters were complex and the world was scary, but it feels oddly familiar because you know how things kind of go in the post-apocalyptic scenario, but I found myself being constantly surprised. I loved it when I was sent the script and Dave is an amazing cinephile, but I haven’t done a movie that’s going to break the box office anytime soon (laughs). I’ve done quite a lot of independent films and he knew his films and he knew my work, and he offered me the part as he sent the script straight off. Apparently I was his first choice which was very flattering to me. I read it and loved it and said yes immediately. There was no question in my mind. It was concise and it was beautiful and I just said yes, and I was in from day one.
Nightmarish Conjurings: I think the horror genre tends to reflect society and things like the current political climate. In the film, the cured are discriminated against and treated like they are less than human. What are your thoughts about the connection between the cured people in the film and what’s going on in the world right now?
SK: That’s a really good question and I’m so glad you asked it, because for me it was one of the really resonating factors of the film and we got it done and we finally saw it we were like, “Oh, Jesus.” This is, in terms of timing and what’s going on in the world in terms of the refugee crisis, in terms of the immigration crisis and in terms of discrimination against African Americans; we’re surrounded by it day in and day out. It’s on the news. In Ireland where the film was shot, Catholics were discriminated against, Protestants were discriminated against, and we were oppressed in our whole kind of history. I think what the film does really beautifully is it allows you to look at the zombie genre through the eyes of that social structure, but it doesn’t beat you over the head with a message. That wasn’t our intention to make it a political film, but I think like you said, the horror genre is very often kind of social commentaries on certain things. I think showing a film like this to a group of people who are trying to get their lives on track and just be normal, but the system is pushing back against them; I think the world needs films that have that message.
Nightmarish Conjurings: The flashbacks your character has are violent and disturbing. How did you get into Senan’s head and prepare for the role?
SK: That was a really important thing for me. I really wanted to ground this in some type of reality. I wanted him to be thinner than I was at the time, so I ate a lot less and just ate mainly vegetables. Also, I thought a lot about people who had been in institutions, like murderers or sex offenders, and just basically people who have had to serve time and be reintegrated back into society. It was very dangerous territory to be researching that kind of stuff. Basically I thought, what is the most horrible thing that can happen in the world that you can go and be away for a certain amount of time for it? Nobody is eating anybody and being killed for it (laughs), so I thought about what’s the next horrible thing you can do. I did a lot of reading, I watched a lot of documentaries, and I tried to get interviews with people who had been in those types of various situations, just to try and, not humanize them, but to see it from a different point of view. The thing about Senan is that he’s done some horrible stuff. He’s eaten people, he’s been a creature and he’s been away for four years. I wanted people to see him, even though I don’t know if in my heart of hearts even I would like him, but I wanted him to be human.
Nightmarish Conjurings: I agree with what you said because when I was watching the film, I realized I couldn’t think of another zombie movie that made me care about the characters as much as THE CURED. This film made me empathize with the people who were zombies and that is unique.
SK: That’s good to hear. It’s very easy to join the mob and to go with the flow. It’s not so easy to step aside and go, hang on a second, these people were being put down and they were in a tight spot politically and socially, and why are they there. They are people also and they have thoughts of their own and they’ve made decisions, sometimes good and sometimes bad, but it deserves to be heard.
Nightmarish Conjurings: What was it like working with director David Freyne and how much freedom did you have with the role?
SK: David is great. He’s been working on the script for a long time and it’s his debut feature, but you wouldn’t think it for a second because the guy is just so in control. He’s so sensitive and he’s so receptive to drama. He knew who he hired. He did his research and he knew all of our work before we’d even got on set. He would just point us in a direction and go, “do your thing and I’ll capture it,” and we did. He’d come in very softly so as not to disturb the scenes, because as you know a lot of them are very full on, and he just gave tiny gestures here and there and tweaks. I really admired his ability to go with that and then walk away. That’s hard for any director, but certainly for a director who is making his first film and a film of this magnitude, and he was really inspiring. He kind of let me do basically anything that I had come up with myself. What I brought to the character from day one on the set, he had kind of had in his head anyway, so we were on the same page. It was great. I really enjoyed working with him and I would work with him again in a heartbeat. He’s brilliant.
Nightmarish Conjurings: What do you hope people take away from this film?
SK: Kind of like what we talked about, I want them to see it as more than a zombie film. I want them to be a little bit more open to it in terms of not just viewing it as your typical film about people running around eating each other. It belittles them some to label them as that in a way. I just hope people will enjoy it, but I also hope that they can come away from it perhaps having a perspective whereby they look at people in oppression. Like you said before, there’s people in various different social groups that are under a lot pressure right now. I’m not a big fan of witch-hunts in any regard and I think it’s very important to hear people. If they’re horrible human beings and they’re guilty of something whatever that may be, then so be it, and that’s exactly what it is. If your friend was a zombie for four years and he’s been eating people, it’s hard to come back from that. If they do come back, that premise should be taken upon everything. I hope that people will not judge too hard the cured from when they first meet them and they will give them a chance to hear them out.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Are you working on any new projects right now that you can tell me about?
SK: Yeah, I just wrapped up a film in British Columbia and Canada, and it’s called Peace, and it’s directed by a guy called Robert Port who is an Oscar winning director for a documentary short. It stars Alexander Ludwig and Franco Nero, who is incredible. It’s based on a book by Richard Bausch and it’s about four American soldiers in World War II that get lost in the Italian mountains in 1944. It’s a really keen study of what happens to somebody’s mind when you have to depend totally on the man next to you and in a war like scenario, particularly in Italy where the violence was so horrendous. I’m really proud of it. I loved every second of filming it and it was such a wonderful experience. That comes out later on this year so that’s one to watch out for.
Nightmarish Conjurings: I really do appreciate you taking the time to talk with me today! I love the film and I really hope that people will see the things that I saw and take away more than it just being a zombie story, because it’s a lot more than that.
SK: Thank you so much! I’m really glad you liked it.
Nightmarish Conjurings: You’re very welcome! Good luck and I wish you a lot success in the future.