Image: IFC Films

A million movies have been made about zombie invasions, but very few have focused on what happens afterwards. Do the zombies get cured? How will society rebuild? Will the survivors actually be safe? These are questions without familiar answers in zombie lore, which makes a movie like The Cured immediately exciting.

[Click here to see io9's statement on this year’s Fantastic Fest.]

Written and directed by David Freyne, in his feature debut, The Cured tells a fascinating story of political uprising, discrimination, and family healing viewed through the lens of a zombie aftermath. It’s a relatively quiet tale, but one filled with intrigue, drama, and a staggering amount of moral and ethical dilemma.

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The Cured takes place in Ireland, where 75 percent of the infected have been cured and are slowly being reintegrated into society. Two of those cured zombies are the main characters: Senna (Sam Keeley), who is invited to live with his sister-in-law (played by Ellen Page, who also produced the film); and Conor (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor), whose family has disowned him. Conor is forced to become a janitor, even though he was previously a lawyer. The differences between how Senna and Conor are treated are a microcosm of how society views the cured, either embracing them after their recovery or spurning them. But this dichotomy represents just one of the film’s conflicts. The bigger one is that all of the cured are still largely discriminated against by society, a none-too-subtle metaphor about Ireland’s politically charged history.

Discrimination or metaphor in a zombie movie isn’t a new idea, but The Cured makes it its own by introducing two original twists. The first is that those who have been cured still have memories of their actions when they were infected. The second is that the 25 percent of the population who are still zombies don’t attack the cured, because they still consider them infected. I won’t spoil how each of those things play out in the movie, but you can probably start to imagine the possibilities. Freyne does a great job of keeping all of these things in your head simultaneously as Senna and Conor’s stories play out.

With each small advancement of the plot, the larger implications begin to snowball. What should happen to the still-zombified people? Will the cured be forgiven? With all of this and more swirling on screen, the relatively tranquil first two thirds of the film create an immense amount of tension which explodes near the end, as every conflict and argument the film has made come crashing together at once.

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The Cured doesn’t reinvent the zombie genre, but it’s an noteworthy new entry into it, which is saying something considering how pervasive zombies are these days. The film is slow, but never boring; complex, but never difficult. The actors give stoic, believable performances and the script blends all of it together beautifully. Even if the ending leaves a bit to be desired, The Cured absolutely gets a clean bill of health.