The Accursed, not to be confused with last year’s The Accursed, starts off with Mary Lynn (Alexis Knapp, Phobias, Grace: The Possession) telling her daughter Sadie (Kai Phillippe-Knapp, Bad Suns) “Don’t come inside until the screaming starts, I want the Devil himself to take possession of her”. A little overblown perhaps but she does have a score to settle with Ms. Ambrose (Meg Foster, Investigation 13, They Live), the local witch.
Several months later, Elly (Sarah Grey, Power Rangers, Last Night in Suburbia) is brought back to town by the death of her mother. Per time-honored tradition, also known as a cliche, she simply wants to settle the estate and leave as fast as possible. But when she finds herself stuck in town she gets offered a job by Alma (Mena Suvari, Apparition, What Lies Below) taking care of a catatonic woman who lives in a cabin in the woods. Yes, it’s Ms. Ambrose.
After directing the Nicholas Cage film Willy’s Wonderland, Kevin Lewis was looking for something a bit more serious. And the script by Rob Kennedy (The Midnight Man, Penance) is full of serious themes such as guilt, childhood trauma, and dysfunctional parent/child relationships. Unfortunately, it isn’t so full of material that anyone would find frightening.
The ability to work closely on a film rooted in demonic possession has been on my bucket list; it is a genre I am passionate about. This opportunity, to blend an incredible story with working with an exceptional female driven cast is a tremendous moment for me as a director and horror lover.Kevin Lewis
After the opening scene, The Accursed really doesn’t offer much beyond the usual cliches, a record player with a mind of its own, appearances by Elly’s mother, Ms. Ambrose’s eyes suddenly popping open when Elly arrives at the house. It’s also very obvious by the half-hour mark that Elly is somehow connected to her patient. Alma claims her mother knew she was coming and told her to offer her the job. And her recollection of her mother drawing blood from her in her sleep. Anyone else would have refused the assignment. Her friend Beth (Sarah Dumont, Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, Drive All Night) even comments on how odd it is but to no avail.
Much of the credit for the atmosphere and effective moments The Accursed does manage to generate goes to cinematographer David Newbert (This Game’s Called Murder, Captors). He gives a boost to the script’s rather mild ghostly antics, elevating them enough to get a response from the viewer.
However, even he can’t help scenes such as Elly’s mother floating in mid-air and throwing apples at her. Or Beth’s asking the local librarian if they have “one of those things like in investigator shows, a microfish”. That did surprise me though, by that point I was expecting her to ask if they had a copy of The Necronomicon. Don’t worry, it or a similar tome, will show up before the credits roll.
In its last twenty minutes, The Accursed manages to work up some energy as well as a few jump scares. But it still never manages to do anything original, right down to the final scene. Even the demon, Troy James (The Void, American Carnage) in a CGI-enhanced suit, looks familiar when it finally shows up. The only viewers who will be surprised by any of it will be those new to the genre. Well shot, earnestly directed, and featuring some good effects, The Accursed is a good-looking but empty film with a script most viewers will be well ahead of.
Screen Media will release The Accursed to select theatres as well as VOD and Digital platforms on October 14th. You can check their website for details including a list of theatres. And, if you’re looking for more films in this vein, you can check FilmTagger for suggestions.