Interview: The Cured Writer/Director David Freyne

With The Cured, writer/director David Freyne puts a new spin on an old thing, and in doing so, has given new life to zombie cinema. Much like the genre giant, George Romero, Freyne has seen fit to layer social commentary into his zombie narrative, while delivering a slick horror piece to boot (our review here). It’s a dense, smart film, and Cinedelphia had the opportunity to pick the brain of the man behind it all.
Cinedelphia: First and foremost, I must say that I loved your movie. I went in not really knowing what to expect yet somehow still managed to have my preconceptions turned upside down. Not since the Romero era have I seen zombie fiction used to explore social ideas in such a potent and thoughtful way. Obviously the imagery here is suggestive of an outbreak similar to the one in 28 Days Later. Was this purposeful or am I projecting?

David Freyne: Thank you so much. Delighted you liked it. 28 Days Later was a big influence and as a film it sort of toys with the idea of a cure, without exploring it. It was the first time I saw the zombie as infected rather than undead and it was just such an incredible visceral film. In The Cured I really wanted to create a more animalistic creature. So our infected behave more like wolves. They hunt together, choose who to kill and who to infect. They communicate in ways people can’t understand. I love the idea that there was a sense of higher intelligence that distinguished them from the classic undead zombie (as much as I love them).

Cinedelphia: Can you talk a little bit about what it was like to write a post-zombie movie in a pop-culture landscape that is now a bit “post-zombie” as well?

David Freyne: Totally, I think zombies have become such a huge part of the culture and indeed many films have toyed with the idea of a cure, but the idea of exploring this really struck me. Starting a film where the traditional film ends.

The idea of being haunted with the memories of being infected just struck me as so human and heartbreaking. So it very much so became a character study framed within the genre.

Cinedelphia: So many social concepts are being explored. The most effective for me was how you used the people who have been cured to represent a class divide. Class division is obviously a chief concern in America. Is this similar in your country? Were America’s current class struggles in your mind as well? Can you talk a bit about how your experience may have shaped the film?

David Freyne: Unfortunately the growing class divide is a problem in the US and Europe. I began writing THE CURED during the last big recession as protests over austerity spread throughout Europe. There was and still is this intense mood of anger, which fused with my writing.  People were having their homes repossessed and bailing out banks. They were all being blamed for things beyond their control, just as the cured in the script are. They are collateral damage in the name of recovery.

And this is something that has only gotten worse and resulted in the rise of figures like Trump.

Cinedelphia: Outside of specific commentaries, there seems to be a universal truth being explored in the film regarding the way power can be perverted. Is this something you considered as well? 

David Freyne: It’s the reason our antagonist is a politician.

It was during development that we saw the rise of a new breed of populist politicians across Europe and in the US. They exploited the fears and anger of society for their own ends.

It was this manipulation of people’s fear that is central to the film. People’s anger was being directed at immigrants and refugees who were being blamed for all the world’s ills. They were dehumanised and treated like an infection in the most horrific way. I find the way our society can so easily go backwards frightening.

Cinedelphia: As for the plot, I was very taken with the scientific ambiguities of the Maze virus and its cure. It makes for a strong movie to have such needless details excised in favor of important thematic/story work. Were the specifics of the virus/cure ever considered?

It’s important for a filmmaker to understand the rules, but I don’t think you should slow down a narrative with needless pseudo science. I mean we worked out the science and the animal behaviour of the infected in detail, which I hope comes through, but I hate films that get bogged down in explanation.

It was much more important of me to make clear that these infected are more animal than mindless. That they communicate and behave like a pack.

Cinedelphia: Your cast is wonderful. I love that there is a somewhat common look amongst the cured. To me, it was reminiscent of folks who currently life on the fringes of real world society. Can you talk a bit about how you chose such a stellar cast, as well has a bit about the general design/look of your film?

David Freyne: I feel incredibly fortunate to have such an incredible cast for my first feature. I always had Sam Keeley and Tom Vaughan-Lawlor in mind. They’re brilliant Irish actors who are both superstars in the making.

As for Ellen, I was just a huge fan and had never seen her play a mother before. We reached out to her team, presuming it would be a no and then we’d swiftly move on. But by some miracle the script ended up reaching her and she loved it.

But as great as they all are, their chemistry together was astounding. They brought such a depth and tension to the film.

It was important there was a familiar look to the cured, reminiscent of war vets or victims. They are pale and disheveled and covered in scars from their time as infected. I loved that you can tell who is cured or not by a specific haunted look.

Cinedelphia: In recommending your film to others, I’ve struggle when trying to categorize it. I find it limiting to refer to it as a zombie movie, but I also don’t want to reveal too much. Do you have a pet categorization for it?

David Freyne: Yikes. I mean it’s a zombie film and I’m proud of that. But I always just say it’s a horror drama. We worked hard to get that balance of frights and character right so, yeah, horror drama. Or rom com, or comedy… whatever gets bums on seats. 🙂

Cinedelphia: I’ve often found that horror film is a great vehicle through which to explore social themes, despite being a genre often seen as amateurish. This stereotype is obviously changing, and I’m glad to see The Cured become part of the movement. Do you consider yourself a horror filmmaker, or was his just the best vehicle for your story?

David Freyne: This was the best vehicle for this story. That’s not to say I don’t love the genre and don’t want to continue to explore it, but my tastes are very varied. My next project is shaping up to be a coming of age comedy. Basically the characters and story should dictate the tone and genre.

Cinedelphia: ’ll close with a question I’ve been asking myself since watching the film, but have yet to reach a conclusion: Would you let one of the cured into your home? Is forgiveness after a tragedy such as the Maze virus possible? 

David Freyne: Ooooh. I’d love to think that I would but what I love with these characters is that you can see all sides. It’s not a black and white issue and, particularly as we see with Ellen’s character, sometimes the truth can test shake your beliefs.

But I am an optimist and would like to think that forgiveness is possible.

Thank you so much for your time, and apologies for my inflexible schedule. Safe travels and congratulations on an incredible film!

Thank you so much and delighted you enjoyed the film. I love seeing such a deep reading of it.

The Cured is currently playing at The Ritz Bourse.

Author: Dan Scully

Dan Scully is a film buff and humorist living in a tiny apartment in Philadelphia. He hosts the podcast I Like to Movie Movie and is the proud father to twin cactuses named Riggs & Murtaugh. Also, he doesn’t really mind when Batman kills people. Follow him on Twitter and Letterboxd.

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