One of the common foundations of a certain sub-genre of horror movies is the human response to grief. Remind you we are not talking about the feeling of grief itself, just the myriad reactions that the act of grieving beckons. While some, like The Babadook (2014), have successfully brought to life the unsupervised human psyche maddened by the feeling of grief, some, like The Midsommar (2019), have helped understand how grief swells into anger, into all encapsulating terror. The Accursed (2022), directed by Kevin Lewis, is another addition to this sub-genre of horror that goes skinny dipping in the ponds of grief.
The film begins with a close shot of a half-eaten apple infested by maggots lying on the grass; there is a tree behind it, and we are let known right away that we shall be dealing with the Biblical ideas of God and the Devil in this metaphorical Garden of Eden that has now gone to the dogs (read: the humans). Soon, the devil is invoked, the evil is threatened to be punished, a child bites off a Devil’s finger, and we are thrust into the story of Elly or Eleanor (played by Sarah Grey), a nurse by profession who has recently lost her mother to suicide.
What begins as Elly’s journey of ridding herself of the memories of her mother and her past, grieving her death as she is, changes into a cabin-in-the-woods story pretty fast, with Elly taking up a temporary nursing position at old, nearly comatose Ms. Ambrose’s isolated residency. Ghosts, curses, and a bizarre hand-shaped devil abound in guest appearances as we slowly but steadily course its 97 minutes runtime. Will Elly find a way to rid herself of her mother in the end?
The horror does not shy from being gory in The Accursed (2022). In one scene, the ghost haunting Elly’s goodnight sleep pees itself, the sound and the sight making it look disgustingly real on the screen. In another, when Elly’s mouth is stuffed with facial skin to keep her from speaking up, it generates shivers down her spine. However, what really dilutes the horror is the sub-par direction and some random facts that do not add up. For example, why are apples lying on the ground below a wisteria-like tree?
The low-budget aspect of this film knocks too loud on the screen at times to ignore the same. Lewis has spent so much time trying to capture a scene in its entirety, using multiple wide-angle shots to his fullest, that it leaves nothing for the imagination. Elly’s waking nightmares seem choppily edited, like vegetables diced with a blunt knife, and are infested with microscopic projections of blood, cells, platelets, and other unrecognizable things. Every time the tension is orchestrated to the perfect notch, it is deflated with the quickness of pricking a balloon by shifting the story into a parallel lane. Whatever little remains of horror, then, exude from the atmospheric smog and a couple of jump scares.
The Accursed (2022) is not a bad film but threatens to be just that in major chunks throughout the film. However, it is really the ending that puts things into better perspective, typing up the narrative well enough not to dismiss it as inconsequential. Let us dive into some explanation around it. Beware, SPOILERS AHEAD!
The Accursed (2022) Movie Synopsis and Summary
In the prologue, we find Mary Lynn and her daughter, Sadie, making a trip to Ms. Ambrose’s residency. Mary Lynn enters the residence and sits facing Ms. Ambrose. They talk about a deal with the Devil, one that Ms. Ambrose can successfully help place by directly communicating with it. She requests a special curse be put on a special victim, trading her daughter’s blood for the same. She then marks the body meant to host the Devil. This body is Ms. Ambrose’s.
In the main narrative of the film, Elly is a nurse who volunteers in Haiti to pay for her nursing education. She has flown home after the death of her mother. We meet her after the funeral service has taken place already. She is being helped by a close friend, Beth, in reorganizing the house and is invited to take up a job as a level-four travel advisor now prevents Elly from flying back to Haiti. So, Elly joins as a nurse for the old and ailing Ms. Ambrose, arranged by her estate rep, Alma, and recommended by her mother before her death. Beth drives Elly out to this isolated estate and expresses concern over Elly’s new employer, especially after Alma evidently flees the scene in haste after meeting them at the estate.
Elly starts living in this estate only to realize that there are upsetting truths hidden behind its walls. To begin with, her first association with Ms. Ambrose involves the discovery of lashing wounds on her legs and cleaning a sticky vomit that oozes out of her mouth. Soon, there is a rotten apple with a sticky note pinned to it, asking her to leave the place planted outside the door of the estate. The next morning when she is out for a run, she spots Sadie in the woods. Later at night, hearing noises from Ms. Ambrose’s room, she goes in to inspect her room and is met with a continuation of the harrowing nightmares featuring her mother’s ghost from previous nights at her own home.
The very next morning, Mary Lynn and her daughter Sadie come to meet Elly. Mary Lynn reveals the truth about Ms. Ambrose’s affairs with the Devil and how she has already taken her fair share of revenge for her husband’s affair with her daughter, Dorothy. She reveals to Elly that she wishes to burn the cabin down soon. Elly is annoyed with her for believing in curses and influencing her daughter’s life with her practices. On the other hand, Beth has been a curious cat and has dug up the history behind the Ambrose estate. Things do not look safe, and Beth sets out to save Elly from whatever supernatural haunts the place. Elly, too, walks down a hidden fleet of stairs to accidentally stumble upon the truth. Alma interferes in Beth’s decision, and Ambrose goes on to have a near-death experience, lying beside old Ms. Ambrose’s possessed body on a pentagram. But Mary Lynn arrives at the right time, and, hallelujah, Elly is saved, although the cabin catches fire and burns down to the ground.
In the end, we see Elly working at a hospital. However, when she walks into a burn ward for her duty, she can hear the same old song she heard after her mother’s service and see death all around her.
Who is Alma?
Alma is Ms. Ambrose’s daughter, Dorothy, but she disguises herself as the estate rep when she first meets Elly on the job. She reveals to Elly only later in the film, when she has Elly in her captivity, that her mother had paid for a curse on Elly’s dad with her blood. This blood was to be used by Ms. Ambrose at the right time, and the time was now. She begins the process of helping the Devil transfer itself from the body of the old host (Ms. Ambrose) to a new one (Elly). She also kills Beth, keeping an eye out for her as she was when the latter tries to save Elly from the Ambroses. However, there is a hint that the Devil may have entered her body, treating it as a host.
Does Beth save Elly in the end?
Beth had been curious about the Ambrose estate since Elly told her about the job. She started digging into the history of the place only to realize that there was something fishy about Ms. Ambrose and her affairs. She finds out they meant to use Elly as the new host for their supernatural possession and sets out to save her. However, when she has almost reached the estate, she receives a text from Elly on her phone and rushes back to her place. There she is met with Dorothy, a.k.a. Alma’s lethal attack – stabbed in the gut and toppled down a flight of steps. In a heinous move, we see Alma wearing Beth’s facial skin as a mask, indicating that Alma had murdered her. Hence, Beth is unable to save Elly in the end.
Is Ms. Ambrose dead?
Alma reveals to Elly that Ms. Ambrose is an old and almost comatose person who had a stroke. We have come to know that she is going to be shifted to the hospital next Monday. She is employed to take care of her till the ambulance arrives on the said day. When Elly takes up the job, her first encounter with Ms. Ambrose proves that she is alive, only her body has bloody wounds, and she vomits a sticky, gooey liquid. Soon afterward, Elly hears sounds from her room, but whenever she approaches her bed, she seems to lie still and quiet. However, the audience knows that she nests a supernatural force always wanting to crop out of her body. It is only towards the end of the film that Elly accepts that Ms. Ambrose is dead or has been dead, and her body is the host of a supernatural creature. Seeing Ms. Ambrose’s body disintegrate in the final scenes for the Devil to emerge further establishes that she had been dead all this while.
The Accursed (2022) Movie Ending Explained
Elly is in the kitchen trying on a fateful night when she accidentally breaks an egg. While cleaning up after it, she spots some markings under the carpet in the dining room. There are markings on the floor and a secret door leading to a small storeroom or attic. Inside it, she finds a book with images of her father, other people, and scribbles related to devilish invocations. In the process, she realizes that her mother knew Ms. Ambrose used to source her blood for her, some of which she finds stored away in this attic. But she hears a sudden noise and accidentally drops the file, breaking it. Elly also inspects Ms. Ambrose for any signs of life and spots the cross-sign Mary Lynn told her she had christened her with. She tries to escape the room, but the door is locked, and she meets her mother’s ghost again. Elly also realizes that a supernatural creature possesses Ms. Ambrose’s corpse.
The police arrive at the spot and warn her about an unknown tip they have received about the burning down of this estate residency. She tries to warn the police officer about the creature hosting inside Ms. Ambrose’s body, but he does not pay any heed to her and is attacked and killed in the process. Elly finds out about his death and leaves the house to report the same to the other police officer waiting near the car. However, the latter is killed by a speeding car. Elly thinks it to be Beth driving the car only to realize that it is Alma, wearing Beth’s facial skin as a mask. She soon knocks her out of consciousness. When she is temporarily retrieved, Alma confesses that she is Dorothy Ambrose and is here to collect Elly’s blood, revealing to her that her mother had paid for putting a curse on her father with her blood.
When Elly gains consciousness again, she is lying on the floor beside Ms. Ambrose’s body. Alma kicks her and stuffs her mouth with Beth’s skin to keep her quiet when Elly tries to tell Alma that she had eloped from her mother when her mother needed her the most; that is why she had committed suicide. Elly wanted to empathize with the feeling of guilt that Alma may be suffering for having been the reason for the Devil’s parasitic relationship with her mother’s body. Still, Alma turns a deaf ear to her and initiates the process of transferring the Devil from Ms. Ambrose’s body to Elly’s. It is when Mary Lynn enters the scene. She blows with Alma and starts to re-read the curse to destroy the Devil when the Devil attacks her instead. Elly, now freed from her bondage, draws a cross on the Devil’s back to injure him and Sadie comes into the scene to set it on fire. When Elly is leaving the house, she is beckoned by her mother’s ghost again, but she walks away and watches the residence burn down to the ground. There is a hint that the Devil entered Alma’s body to treat it as the next host.
Elly has gotten over the grief of her mother’s death by acknowledging the dysfunctional relationship she always shared with her. She was not right in walking away, but her mother only, and always, used her to gain her ends. She is shown to move on – breaking the vinyl record of their song at her grave. She is now employed in a hospital, but when she enters the burn ward, she spots Alma in one of the beds, singing her mother’s song, and all around, patients are hanging dead from the ceiling. Does this entail that the supernatural had never ceased to follow her? Or, is she still subconsciously dealing with the trauma, reeling under the grief perhaps of her mother’s death? You are free to pick the answer that best fits your opinion! I’d personally go with the latter.