by Angela Bourassa (@angelabourassa1)
From Shaun of the Dead to The Walking Dead, zombie stories have often been used to shine a light on our darkest impulses and most inhuman behavior. With his first feature film, The Cured, David Freyne has found a new way to bring together zombies and social commentary.
Set in Ireland and starring Sam Keeley and Ellen Page, The Cured takes place after a zombie outbreak has been stopped and the infected have been cured, but they retain the memories of what they did. And to complicate matters, 25% of the infected remain resistant to the cure.
LA Screenwriter’s Angela Bourassa recently spoke with writer and director David Freyne about how he developed this idea, the challenges of writing with a strict shooting budget, and the balance between defying expectations and giving horror audiences what they want.
Angela Bourassa: When you started developing this script, what was the impetus behind the idea — writing a zombie movie, or writing a social commentary?
David Freyne: It all kind of came wrapped up. The idea of exploring a cure to the infection came to me during the height of the last big recession. There was so much anger and hate with the rise of populist figures manipulating that hate for the own ends. The cured just naturally fit in as a perfect parable for what I was seeing around me.
Angela Bourassa: To what level were you thinking about social issues and what was happening in the world around you as you wrote this script?
David Freyne: The social issues definitely informed the script, but the characters and what they were going through came first.
Angela Bourassa: In the film, some of the people who are cured of the disease and subsequently persecuted decide to stand up for themselves, but their protest tactics are… flawed, to say the least. Were you trying to make a statement with that plot development, or was it more about moving your story forward?
David Freyne: The rise of the Cured Alliance was very much based on research done on marginalized groups in war zones, whether it be Northern Ireland during the troubles or Iraq, etc. Our antagonist manipulates the fear around him and is essentially the match that sparks the violence, as is often the case.
Angela Bourassa: Did you know that you would be directing this when you wrote it? Did that affect your writing process?
David Freyne: That was always the hope. The first draft was just about the characters and story I wanted to tell, but of course, the reality of budget quickly sets in. So a lot of revisions were about how do we achieve this on a budget, while maintaining that sense of scale and ambition. It’s all about choosing when to have your scale and when to focus on the actors.
Angela Bourassa: Zombie movies have a loyal following and very particular genre expectations. How did you go about balancing satisfying fans of the genre with breaking the mold?
David Freyne: Striking that balance between horror and drama was always the big challenge. I love these films and want to see the action as much as anyone. So it was just about finding a device to keep that present. Having 25% of the infected be resistant to the cure, allowed me to have a threat of a further outbreak build like a pressure cooker throughout.
But also the cured are haunted with the memories of being infected, and for many their behavior is still informed by that experience. So a lot of those classic genre moments naturally come from the cured.
Angela Bourassa: I always like to ask, what do you wish you knew before you started this project?
David Freyne: There is a lot I wish I knew! But above all, I wish I had known to be kinder to myself during the long financing process. The actual production is the fun but briefest part of the filmmaking process. Trying to get a film off the ground can be lonely and depressing. But it’s important to realize a lot of what is happening is beyond your control and to try not let it get you down. And to ignore the instinct to put a PR spin on the bad times and just open up to those closest to you. It’s not something I did during The Cured years, but it’s definitely something I intend to do going forward.
The Cured is in theaters and On Demand now.
Angela Bourassa is the founder and Editor in Chief of LA Screenwriter.