The Cursed Movie Review: Unsettling Werewolf Horror
It’s no secret that I get excited learning about any horror movie that’s new to me. I love horror and I will never tire of the many ways in which filmmakers (and writers) try to scare me. But say the words “werewolf horror,” and I react exactly like a cartoon wolf. My eyes pop out of my head, I pound the table, and the bowtie that I’m suddenly wearing starts spinning. At some point, I’ll write about werewolf horror in general–hint, hint–but for now, let’s just review the 2022 movie The Cursed, the latest entry to the canon.
What You Need to Know First: The Eight For Silver Title Change
image via Elevation Pictures
Before we even get into a review of a 2022 movie called The Cursed, we should mention it wasn’t always Cursed. This film premiered last year at the Sundance Film Festival. So first of all, that’s why you may see a lot of reviews from then. In addition, it originally premiered with the name Eight for Silver in 2021, but they have obviously changed it. For the most part, I think that’s a good idea. I’m pretty sure the title refers to the old nursery rhyme about magpies, even though most versions don’t go up to eight. Basically, it’s a superstitious verse about what kind of luck you’re going to have, depending on how many magpies you see. (“One for sorrow, two for joy,” etc.)
Anyway, while there is a cameo appearance by some magpies, they’re not a loadbearing element of the plot. And while there might have been eight of them–they were too riled up for me to get a count–it doesn’t matter. There’s a different number associated with silver in the movie and that one is far more important to the story. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about that story.
A Film That Reminds Us Being a Werewolf Is a Curse (Allegedly)
The film is set in France–maybe–but that is largely as irrelevant as the magpies. (Note: Some sources place the setting in the UK.) It seems as if it’s set there just so characters can invoke the specter of the infamous Beast of Gévaudan. For three years in the mid-18th century, some kind of animal or animals–maybe–tore through Gévaudan, a region of France. The first victim, who survived, described the animal as “Like a wolf, yet not a wolf.” Whatever it was–and fun fact, we still don’t know–it would go on to attack hundreds more.
legend has it, for instance, that south Alabama produced a “wolf woman”–ain’t that crazy?! (image via Mobile Press-Register)
While wolf-person sightings are not that uncommon, this kind of thing–widespread attacks by a wolfesque creature–is. Especially, you know, since we still have no explanation. As such, it’s too tempting not to mention Gévaudan. Especially, you know, when the attacks start.
But before that happens, there’s the land. That’s what starts all the trouble. A small group of Romani folks are camping out on land that ostensibly belongs to a group of land barons, led by Seamus Laurent (Alistair Petrie). They are not happy about the Romani camp, particularly because the people there are attempting to exercise their claim to the land. Having allegedly tried to reason with the group, the barons decide to hell with the carrot–the stick it is.
Unfortunately, the stick they choose–a group of mercenaries–issues a wildly disproportionate response to the small camp. I think I counted like, 5 covered wagons. The mercenaries could kill the entire camp in minutes, but instead, they want to set an example. Not only is it brutal and unnecessary, but it also gives a woman in the camp time enough to curse her adversaries. The mercenaries are generous enough to leave a set of teeth, supposedly crafted from the silver given to Judas, with her body.
After that, dreams pull the children of the landowners to the site of the massacre. And by visiting that place, they set the curse in motion. Soon, something is stalking the little community. It begins with the children, but no one is immune. (As I always say, werewolfery is for everyone.)
The Cursed (2022) Movie Review Score
The Cursed is not a traditional werewolf movie, as you might have already guessed. By that, I mean that the process of transformation doesn’t follow the typical “welp, wolf bit me” path. But just because it’s not a shaggy dog story doesn’t mean it can’t be a kind of werewolf story.
As I’ve written before, the werewolf story is usually about desire. And as I’ve also written, that can be about many types of indulgence. In this one, it’s vengeance. Technically, it’s vengeance by proxy, but that still counts. After all, isn’t that what a curse often is?
Further, while it’s not your usual werewolf tale, it’s also not your usual horror. This is a film that eschews easy jump scares in favor of creating an unsettling mood. Admittedly, this sometimes doesn’t work. Some viewers, for instance, might find it too slow or not scary. But if you enjoyed a movie like The Witch, another story about people alone in the dark, then you’ll probably like this one as well.
That’s not to say, though, that this is a perfect film. The trigger being a Romani curse, for example, feels stale. Identity has been important to the werewolf movie since Curt Siodmak used his own history–he fled Nazi Germany–to write The Wolf Man. However, the choice to include Romani people doesn’t feel as purposeful. In addition, there’s no real sense of place. That’s due in part to the array of accents. They do that thing where basically everyone has a British accent, which is fine, but I jumped straight out of the story when a Scottish guy started talking. Again, aren’t we in France?
image via Elevation Pictures
But these are minor complaints, as is my wish for more practical effects with the…cursed results. (I’m trying to avoid spoilers.) They are pleasingly gross, though. Overall, this is a worthy addition to the werewolf horror movie canon. On that note, Boyd Holbrook, who plays a pathologist who’s on the hunt himself, is a particular high point. His character feels like a throwback in the best way, like someone you would have seen in a Hammer Horror. The scenes that bookend the film were inessential to me, but the stuff in between? Ah, yeah, that’s the (werewolf) stuff.
The Cursed is now playing in theaters.
Share with us your review of the 2022 movie The Cursed or any of your werewolf thoughts, like how you wish there’d be a positive story about werewolfery, in these comments, on our social media, or outside when the moon is bright and the air is crisp.
featured image via Elevation Pictures
Salomé Gonstad is a freelance writer who grew up in the swampy wilds of south Alabama. When she's not yelling about pop culture on the internet, she's working on a supernatural thriller about her hometown. Also, we're pretty sure she's a werewolf. Email her at [email protected]