In The Cursed, Werewolf-Type Beasts Put a Greedy Landowner in His Place

Although the werewolf film is a classic horror movie, it’s sad to say that our furry fanged friends are less popular than vampires. Werewolves don’t ignite the erotic imagination like vampires do; voraciousness isn’t as sexy as neck-biting.

But there’s still poetry to be found in the idea of doomed beings stuck in a cycle of perpetual hunger. The Cursed written and directed by English filmmaker Sean Ellis, isn’t a werewolf picture in the strict sense: there’s nothing shaggy or wolflike about the beasts in question. The title implies that they’re beings who have had their lives changed by a terrible bite. An ancient spirit has also brought them to life, causing their unnatural cravings. Set somewhere in 19th century France, this is a movie low on cheap jump scares and high on atmosphere; its polished gloominess is one of its chief attributes, situating you in a time and place where you don’t feel quite right in your own skin.
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Seamus Laurent, a wealthy landowner (Alistair Petrie), gathers a bunch of thugs and sets out to kill a group Romani families that claim their land is his. After noticing that Pascale Becouze (an elderly Roma Matriarch) had in her possession a collection of silver false teeth marked with crosses, the goons decide they are too scared to take the items and melt them down. Before they kill and bury the old woman, she hisses a warning: “We will poison your sleep until you summon the dark one. Then you will know what death is.” And before you know it, Laurent’s children—sweet-natured Edward (Max Mackintosh) and his protective older sister Charlotte (Amelia Crouch)—begin having nightmares. They dream of a human scarecrow, by far the movie’s most horrifying image, and of that set of silver choppers. It’s only a matter of time before Edward, Charlotte, and the other kids of the village make their way to the site of the massacre, where the old woman’s curse takes its full, grisly effect.

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CursedIt is a classic tale of the dangers of bigotry and greed, but less about nature’s unpredictable ways of working things out. Still, in most werewolf lore it seems that young people—like poor, sweet Edward Laurent—are more susceptible to mystical wolf power than adults are. Some people believe that werewolfdom may be an expression of teenager confusion or frightening body changes. That’s how we got movies like the 1957 teenybopper fave I was a Teenage Werewolf. and it’s a factor in the Twilight movies as well: Taylor Lautner’s Jacob Black is the werewolf boy that Kristen Stewart’s Bella Swan just can’t resist. Then there’s John Fawcett’s brilliant 2000 Ginger Snaps, in which a goth teenager is attacked—and transformed—by a wild beast on the same day she starts menstruating. The movie’s tagline, “They don’t call it the curse for nothing,” says it all.

The waswolves of CursedDifferent: They carry history’s weight and the discrimination burden on their shoulders. At one point before her death, the Roma grande dame explains the bargain she and her people have made with the beastly spirit behind the curse in question: “We have protected it for generations, and it has protected our generations.” There’s nothing cuddly about the were-creatures of The Cursed. But there’s no question that they get the job done.

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