According to Google.com, interested viewers can purchase The Accursed on Apple iTunes, Google Play Movies, Vudu, Amazon Video, Microsoft Store, YouTube, Redbox as download or rent it on Apple iTunes, Google Play Movies, Vudu, Amazon Video, Microsoft Store, YouTube, Redbox, DIRECTV, Spectrum On Demand online.
I’ve always argued that traditional Horror films suffer from one central drawback: no matter how interested the viewers might be with the plot, its mechanics, or its performances, they’re still all patiently waiting for the next body to drop.
After all, everybody knows that’s what the main appeal of Horror has been, remains, and always will be. Films of the genre are one of the truest expressions of vicarious entertainment because … well … we can’t go out and do what the baddies are doing lest we risk being caught, charged, and incarcerated. We’re rapt in our seats waiting for the kill. We’re focused on those characters we think are next in line to suffer a cruel, cruel fate. We’re watching the sidelines trying to figure out just how and when the source of evil might strike. And we’re likely to suspend our disbelief over practically anything in order to witness some bloodshed. That’s just life in Horror, folks.
Thankfully, Horror comes in all shapes and sizes … but rarely – rarely – does it come with a legitimate family angle.
Now, I’m not talking about the Leatherface family, those relatives featured prominently in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise. Those cannibals were merely hellbent on figuring out where their next meal is coming from. That’s their thing. What I’m talking about here is the family that’s dealt a curse, and – as a consequence – they’re racing against time to undo the danger wished upon them. That kind of dark magic tangled up in the bloodlines of a family tree has been tinkered with in some foreign affairs I’ve watched. U.S. flicks dabbling in similar ideas generally involve immigrants, relocated dissidents, foreign asylum seekers, and the like.
What these films have that other Horrors don’t is they explore a particular culture in ways big and small … and that’s something which could’ve been a greater asset to The Accursed (2021), a spooky family potboiler emerged from the minds of co-writers and co-directors Kathryn Michelle and Elizabeta Vidovic. Mixing up potions all of their own, they packed this low-budget chiller with some of the right ingredients but perhaps left a few untouched on the table as well. And just a bit more spice would’ve elevated this perfunctory scare to something a bit more special.
From the film’s IMDB.com citation:
“Hana spends twenty years suppressing a maleficent curse that was placed upon her bloodline, only to have a family member knowingly release it forcing her to kill or be killed.”
As I said above, Horror is perhaps the only genre which truly relies on perpetuating victimhood. In short: the more, the merrier! On that score, The Accursed definitely comes up a bit short as the body count never quite reaches the heights possible; and that’s largely owed to the fact that scribes Michelle and Vidovic really centered on keeping this a family affair. Divulging too many details on that front would really spoil the plot (which I won’t do), but suffice it to say that maybe when you think you’ve had it up to here with this bunch there’s one more secret to drop … so I’ll leave it at that.
What I will compliment is how well the writers kinda/sorta framed their ‘worst honeymoon ever’ in the fabric of culture.
Essentially what audiences get here are gypsies-of-a-kind. These characters come from families forced out of their birth countries and relocated to their own quiet corners (in the U.S.) where they do still engage in some of the Old-World habits. Yes, the uniformed might call this a kind of witchcraft – we eventually do learn that they are practicing something like it – and this family has been labeled as such by the world around them. It’s this added flavor that gives The Accursed its best moments (well, the ones besides its effect scares), though some of that cultural trickery unspools with not enough exposition for me to truly understand and appreciate what was happening.
But while this ethnic angle drew me in – it was the script’s singular source of magic – I couldn’t summon greater interest in much else. As a ghost story, it was all a bit too generic.
All of those objections aside, The Accursed certainly brought together a cast capable of delivering the goods (or, at least, what the script provided). The luminous Yancy Butler has long been a favorite of mine; though her career may not be as storied as others, she brings a great center to this whole affair as the failed sinner whose greatest secret threatens to unravel a bloodline. The reliable Goran Visnjic could’ve had a bit more to do here; he spends the first half of the picture brooding (it becomes understandable when you know the details), and then I felt like he spent too much of the second half running here and there at Butler’s commands. I’ve loved Melora Walters since her time on HBO’s Big Love; but most of what she does here felt a bit of an overreach in theatrics. It’s almost like she’s seen her future, knows she’s destined to fail, and spends her screen time angry; a bit of nuance might’ve served everyone’s goals here better.
Are there a few relative newcomers worthy of mention? There sure are!
Maiara Walsh does a great turn here as ‘Zara,’ a young sprite who’s trying to use her cultural talents for good in the community beyond. She taps a great energy, filling her scenes with a welcome youthful vitality when everyone else is trending dour. George Harrison Xanthis – as ‘Petar’ – balances his family issues against trying to fit into the world outside, and the script gives him some nice small moments to make all of his struggles seem real. His dark turn in the second half helps elevate the tragic circumstances everyone was secretly fighting to avoid. The pretty Izabela Vidovic handles much of what the scripts asks of her fairly well. Alas, there’s a nebulousness to her character’s motivation in the film’s second half that doesn’t quite reconcile easily with what we’re told earlier, so perhaps one more draft on the script could’ve iron things out a bit more evenly.
In the end, The Accursed proves – without reservation – that some families are more of a curse than they’re worth.
Recommended. As this is clearly a smaller, indie-style Horror release, I’m suspecting The Accursed might be cursed to find a wider audience. Within the broader category of Horror, it really fits more into the subset of witches and/or witchcraft; given that I believe it invokes a specific heritage, it might even be suggested as a ‘cultural Horror film,’ an even more narrow subset of films. Performances are good – a few are a bit over-the-top – but the entire project could’ve used a more thorough set-up and maybe even some further discussion of the family’s heritage. That could’ve bolstered some of the slower sequences wherein audiences are waiting for the next body to drop.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Almost Normal Productions provided me with a complimentary streaming link for The Accursed (2021) by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.