Last weekend, writer/director David Freyne’s zombie-fueled political thriller The Cured arrived on VOD and in select theaters courtesy of IFC Films. Starring Ellen Page, Sam Keeley, and Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, The Cured picks up where most living dead cinematic stories end. After a cure has been discovered, the previous flesh eaters are now returning to the general population to resume their normal lives, but those who were never affected by the virus aren’t exactly ready to welcome them back into the fold with open arms.

Daily Dead recently caught up with Freyne, and he discussed his unusual approach to the story of The Cured, tapping into some real-life horrors that are currently plaguing the socio-political landscape worldwide, collaborating with his cast and crew, and more.

Great to speak with you today, David. What I think is really interesting about The Cured is the fact that your story picks up where a lot of zombie-themed films end. Was there a certain reason that you had in mind to start the story here versus going the more traditional route?

David Freyne: Well, I think a lot of films have already discussed the idea of the cure, and they even ended with the cure. For me, it was about what would happen next, what would happen after they were cured but remembered what they did while infected, which I think is such a traumatic idea to explore. It just always seemed like the perfect starting point, where the real horror could begin after that. The idea of starting somewhere most films end was the main idea for this film.

As I’m sure you realize, there are a lot of parallels you could draw from this story, in terms of the socio-political issues over the years in Ireland, and current issues around the world. Can you talk about tapping into that fear and isolation and paranoia that so many people are facing, and using this story as a metaphor for all those feelings?

David Freyne: When I started writing this, it was a long time ago. It was in 2011. It was when we had the big recession in Ireland, at the beginning of populist politicians and the resurgence of them. They were fueling people's anger, and manipulating their fear and directing their hate towards asylum seekers and refugees, and dehumanizing them in really horrendous ways. That all set into the writing of this. Obviously, we assumed things would get better. We never imagined things like Trump would happen. He's a symptom of what was happening then. It all kind of made sense, unfortunately. The message of the film is that we can't let fear ruin our lives and ruin our politics.

The Cured was basically your first full-fledged feature, and for as much as it is very character-driven and there are a lot of dramatic elements, there are also some really ambitious set pieces as well. Were there challenges that came along with directing this film?

David Freyne: Yeah, the trick with the script was trying to get that balance between the horror and the drama, and making sure that they're working together and there's no kind of sacrifice there. That was the first trick, that was the challenge. When it’s your first feature, it's hard to get a budget. You're never going to have enough days or resources, and trying to develop and create that scale with resources we had was tough. It was a testament to the incredible cast and crew, who really put their hearts and souls into it and squeezed every penny onto the screen.

The trick with these films is just to keep the focus on the actors. Seeing the scale through their eyes, that always makes it feel bigger and makes you feel the best when you’re trying to invent. It's not focusing on an explosion, it's feeling that through our actors and seeing that through their experience and having that scale in the background. There were lots of tricks, and it's tough when you have to make sure that the ceiling doesn't crack under the weight of the ambition. It's a fine balance.

You mentioned your cast, and you have a really solid trio at the heart of this film, with Ellen and Sam and Tom. What I think was really important about these characters, too, is that they all become these different viewpoints into this fractured world. Can you talk about working with them and finding those character moments?

David Freyne: Yeah, absolutely. The thing with this and what appealed to the guys was that none of the characters were black and white. They're all shades of gray. There are points in the script where you will agree with Ellen, and then you might disagree with her later, or end up screaming at the screen for Sam to do something. Similarly, with Tom, he becomes the antagonist, but you sympathize with him for much of the film. You want that moment for the audience of like, "Damn, I'm rooting for the bad guy." It was always about trying to make sure that it isn't the good guy/bad guy situation.

In terms of the actors, they were great. They did so much research on their characters and roles, whether it be PTSD or what it's like to live through a war zone, and brought so much truth and empathy for them and had an amazing chemistry together, which really, really helped. They really just understood and shared my vision for this story, and understood that their characters are complicated. In many ways, they're selfish and then sometimes they're altruistic, but it's a fine line. I could still pinch myself because I got so lucky. You don't imagine having that kind of trio for your first film. They gave some stunning performances.

This is a story where when you made this film, you could have taken a definite stance on one side or the other of the issues. Yet, you explored the moral complications of all sides of it. Was there a reason behind that approach, or was it simply a case of these issues being far too involved to draw that clear-cut line in the sand?

David Freyne: Yeah, there's a difference between understanding and empathy. It's important to understand all sides of an argument. It doesn't mean you agree with all sides in an argument. For me, it was important to understand where all the characters are coming from, and where the trauma that's rooted in all these characters [comes from]. It doesn't mean that Conor's character isn't ultimately bad or wrong, but you still have to understand where that pain comes from. That's something we miss in modern debate, is that we are dehumanizing people and we're seeing people as a cartoon baddie or a cartoon goodie. It's important that we have a certain amount of understanding and try to see through their eyes a little bit.

Again, that's a testament not just to the incredible crew, but the cast. They brought that complexity to it. They really thought through their roles and made sure that that we understood them regardless of whether or not you agree with them.

  • Heather Wixson
    About the Author - Heather Wixson

    Heather A. Wixson was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, until she followed her dreams and moved to Los Angeles in 2009. A 14-year veteran in the world of horror entertainment journalism, Wixson fell in love with genre films at a very early age, and has spent more than a decade as a writer and supporter of preserving the history of horror and science fiction cinema. Throughout her career, Wixson has contributed to several notable websites, including Fangoria, Dread Central, Terror Tube, and FEARnet, and she currently serves as the Managing Editor for Daily Dead, which has been her home since 2013. She's also written for both Fangoria Magazine & ReMind Magazine, and her latest book project, Monsters, Makeup & Effects: Volume One will be released on October 20, 2021.