Britt Kynde, Paul Tucker, Elora Wilson
This film is ultimately more Clerks than Shaun of the Dead…
Dan (Paul Tucker) and Nan (Elora Wilson) live with Cat (Britt Kynde) – the housemate from hell. On Friday the 13th, and after repeated noise complaints, their house is cursed by a local gypsy. Now anybody who leaves the house will die, and all three housemates – plus two of Dan’s friends – are stuck together without hope of escape.
Recently released to Vimeo, Britt Kynde’s independent feature Cursed is not a horror-comedy so much as just a straight comedy that is informed by horror. That is important to know if you are expecting humorous riffs on vampires, werewolves or the undead. The horror elements – a gypsy curses a house, and two dead twenty-somethings come back to life – only exist to give the story a confined premise and some funny jokes. This film is ultimately more Clerks than Shaun of the Dead: character-based gags, a confined setting, and a relatively slight narrative.
The film is a rather episodic affair, with the action split into a string of often self-contained sketches. Many of them seem to end with their own percussive rim-shot in the score, as if to emphasise their nature as cheap gags. Like all comedy of this nature, it uses a scatter-shot approach. Some of the jokes fail to land, but there are always other scenes just around the corner. Some work brilliantly. Due to that segmented structure the film does begin to drag by the midpoint, but Kynde thankfully overcomes that by giving the characters and story an unexpected amount of heart during the second half. It is this emotive back-end that lifts Cursed above the run-of-the-mill standard of self-shot low budget comedies of this type. It is far from perfect, but you can see the potential in the script and the cast.
The film does struggle from the outset with the character of Cat (played by Kynde). She feels like she is supposed to be likeable and is certainly the closest thing the story has to a protagonist, yet her behaviour and antics are too repellent to allow the viewer to engage. By the time the story is giving her greater nuance and depth, it is almost too late. She has been too unsympathetic in the earlier scenes for the viewer to care. The remaining characters are entirely naturalistic, and that makes the caricature-like Cat stand out even more. There is also a sneaking sense that Kynde is one step away from breaking into laughter in many of her scenes. When she hits a joke she nails it, but at the same time it is an uneven performance. Other members of the cast, notably Elora Wilson as Nan and David Beamish as ill-fated friend Glen, are more consistent and impressive.
The film retains an aggressive Australian identity, which was a smart move on Kynde’s part. Ultra-low-budget comedies are plentiful (this one was made for a reported $9,000), but only a few are going to feel this authentically Australian in style of comedy and overall tone. Technically the film works its budget to its favour: the handheld camera work gives everything a sense of immediacy, while a shift from colour photography to black and white when the curse is laid is a stroke of genius. Poor sound – the bane of all low budget films – rears its head from time to time but is by no means a deal breaker.
Cursed is imperfectly made – what indie production like this isn’t? – but at the end of the day the only thing that should matter with a comedy is whether it makes you laugh. I laughed quite a bit. It’s a promising debut, and hopefully not the last we see of Britt Kynde.