I LOVE zombie films. This might come as a slight surprise because I normally leave the horror reviews to Dan. I can’t get through most scary movies without hiding behind the sofa and then having nightmares for weeks.
But there is just something about shuffling, brains-hungry, undead monsters which really works for me, as a movie concept. This may well have something to do with In The Flesh.
In The Flesh had two seasons on the BBC a few years ago, until it got unjustly cancelled. Since then it’s become very difficult to track down, and I rarely meet anyone else who has watched it. But if you were an unhappy teenager back in the late 2000s/early 2010s, it had everything: angst, family tension, young men with no discernible muscle tone, pseudo-Victorian lace dresses, forbidden relationships.
Also, it has a remarkably similar plotline to 2017 movie The Cured.
I watched The Cured a couple of nights ago (listen up! I don’t want any comments about this blog not being current! I’m a poor Millennial, you’re a poor Millennial, no media exists until it turns up on Netflix or Amazon Prime). And it was as if the writer behind In The Flesh had a really, really bad trip, fell asleep for ten years, and then woke up in 1980s Northern Ireland.
What I mean is The Cured is grim. And dark. And political. But it still has all the key elements…
We’re in a world where the worst of the zombie epidemic is already over. Now the undead are being rehabilitated. They still look unusual, and they may have nibbled a few family members, but the government wants them to be productive members of society again. This goes about as well as you’d expect.
In The Cured, the entire story is an extremely blunt metaphor for the Troubles in Northern Ireland. The zombie virus is literally called “Maze Virus”; there are political murals and dirty protests and petrol bombs, et cetera.
I have… mixed feelings about this? The zombies are intelligent creatures who love, reason, fight for their rights, get locked up and stage peaceful protests, but they’re also portrayed as mindless unreliable vicious world-destroying terrorists. So it’s hard to tell where the director’s sympathies lie, really.
In The Flesh only had one Irish character – the irrepressibly attractive Emmett J Scanlan – and everybody else was a charming Lancashire local. It didn’t have much truck with politics apart from a couple of LGBT storylines. But the other similarities are still striking: a young hero(?) led astray(?) by an older zombie, a loving-but-troubled family, a sinister government plot and a rather unsatisfying conclusion.
Honourable mentions: The Cured features Ellen Page, and everybody loves Ellen Page. There are strong performances from Sam Keeley and a truly eerie Tom Vaughan-Lawlor; the latter was both my favourite character and the character who most unsettled me.
Overall, I still love In The Flesh best. Perhaps because it had the benefit of two full seasons, it explored the practicalities of life as a rehabilitated zombie. There was time for complex characters and relationships to develop. The Cured paints in much bloodier, broader strokes – but it’s still worth seeing, as a neat piece of drama and a comment on the fragile situation in good ol’ N.I.