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Arts & Life

Zombies With Guilt In 'The Cured'


Zombies - we have an endless fascination with them. They are us but slobbering, flesh eating and murderous. In the new film "The Cured," the genre gets an ingenious twist: zombies can be cured, but they can remember every single horrible thing they did as ghouls. Think of it as zombies with guilt. To talk about the film, we are joined now by one of its stars, Ellen Page, and its director, David Freyne. Welcome to the program.

DAVID FREYNE: Hello. How are you?



GARCIA-NAVARRO: So, David, I want to start with you.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: Set up the story for us. It's set in your native Ireland, and there has been an outbreak of something called the Maze virus.

FREYNE: Yeah. So I think the idea was always to take the end of a zombie film and explore what were to happen after that. So a lot of these films have discussed the idea of a cure, but nobody really explored what that would look like. And so the idea is we open with the third wave of cures and infected zombies being reintegrated back into society. And amongst them is a character called Senan who's wracked with the guilt of what he did while he was infected. And he's taken in by his sister-in-law played by - Abbie, played by Ellen - who reluctantly takes him back in. And so it's basically what that world looks like and the chaos that that kind of ensues from that set up.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: David, how did this idea come up? I mean, curing zombies then having them deal with their remorse. It's been called quite an ingenious idea.

FREYNE: I mean, I love the genre. And I've always kind of wanted to do a zombie film. And it's just a question of what can you do that's a twist on it?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Ellen, you play Abbie, a mother who lost her husband in a zombie attack. And the cured zombies, as we've mentioned, can remember all the things they did. But, of course, so do the people who love - whose loved ones were attacked. So how do you forgive the person who chomped on your child? How can you pretend that everything is back to normal? What is Abbie struggling with here?

PAGE: I think with Abbie and the situation she's in, a lot of the grief and trauma that she's dealing with from that period and, of course, the loss of her husband she sort of had to move to the side because her main focus is caring for her young son and trying to create a life for him again or a sense of normalcy or what have you. And so I think a lot of what she's feeling has actually been pushed below the surface. And as the film goes on, we see a lot of that starting to rise up within her.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Why do we love zombie movies so much? I mean, they seem to be such an integral part of our culture now. I mean, I was watching the film with my husband last night. And I was, like, please save our daughter when the end comes, please.


FREYNE: I don't know what the fascination is. I think there's just something quite visceral about - about this kind of uncontrollable infection that takes over people. And I think it does work. And it always has worked, being a really strong and great way of telling a social and political story.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Ellen, what do you think it is?

PAGE: I don't know if it's - we're so afraid of our impermanence. You know, and we are in such denial often of the inevitable. And I think particularly now, a lot of people are wondering, are we getting there, you know?


PAGE: And I think as much as - it's about people who are - you know quote, unquote, "have become not human." I think it really makes us question our own humanity, as a lot of the humans in these stories make a lot of moral and ethical compromises.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. At the heart of this film, like so many zombie movies, are these sort of larger themes. And one of the things that struck me about this film is that the former zombies are treated like second-class citizens, and they rebel.

FREYNE: I mean, I think that when I was writing this film, it started back during when Ireland and Europe was in the heights of a very big recession. And there was lots of anger and frustration, and people were being blamed for things beyond their control. And they were being manipulated by these pompous politicians across Europe who were basically redirecting their anger and hate towards immigrants and asylum seekers and those kind of minority groups and dehumanizing them in a hideous way and treating them like they were a contagion and an infection. And, you know, I think the film is all about how we shouldn't let fear rule our lives and rule our politics. And I think what we're seeing now in the world is the result of what happens when you let fear rule your lives and rule your politics.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Can I ask this as a fan of zombie movies? And this is for you, Ellen. Do you get scared onset (laughter), like, when the zombies are coming for you? Or is it - you're just, like, you understand that this is a movie. And you're just - you know, you're acting. But it just - I don't know. Some of those scenes were pretty scary. So I always wonder, like, how realistic does it feel?

PAGE: Well, you know, I don't know if I've ever had an experience on a set, other than this film, where moments have scared me. And I think that's actually a huge shoutout and a testament to the extraordinary background actors who, I think, did such an amazing job playing these infected people.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: This makes me happy. I don't know, why, but this makes me happy. And I want - and I'm glad you shout - you gave a shoutout to all the extras because zombie movies could not be zombie movies without the hordes of zombies. And so I feel like they don't get their due.

FREYNE: They - yeah. And it's crazy, I think. When you put a call out for people to pay extras, you get people. When you put a call out for people to play zombies, you just get hordes and hordes.


FREYNE: People just want to be zombies. They want to be infected.


FREYNE: It's crazy, yeah. And...

PAGE: I mean didn't, like, even travel in to...

FREYNE: Literally, like from...

PAGE: ... Do it? Yeah.

FREYNE: ...The other side of Ireland, people were coming to be infected for us, which was amazing. And it was a lovely kind of feeling of community, and everyone just got very much so into it. And I think it speaks to people's kind of fascination and love for this.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I love knowing this - that not only do people like to watch zombie films, but they also like to be zombies.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: This has restored my faith in humanity.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: Director David Freyne and actor Ellen Page. Their new film is "The Cured," and it opened this weekend. Thank you so very much.

PAGE: Thank you so much.

FREYNE: Thank you. Thank you very much.