With his Toronto Film Festival-premiering directorial debut— horror feature The CuredIrish director David Freyne brings to the screen a zombie  film like none seen before.

Starring Ellen Page and Sam Keeley, the film is centered on a world in which there is, in fact, a cure for the infected, who can thereby be reintegrated into society. But this return to civilization comes with a great burden for those like Senan (Keeley), who, once cured, have to face the horrific memories of what they’ve done while infected.

“We keep saying it’s the infected film that starts where other films end, so it was about what would happen next, after that kind of zombie apocalypse—what would happen if there was a cure, and if the cured remembered what they did while they were infected, and how they would be accepted back,” Freyne shares. “That was the genesis of the idea, and when I started writing it, it was around the big recession in Europe and Ireland, and there was lots of anger, and it was the first rise of populism, so that fed into the writing, that kind of division and how fear has been exploited by various politicians.”

While entertaining, in Freyne’s mind, there is a political dimension to all horror, an unusual lens through which society can be examined. Indeed, as the director says, there is a grand tradition of such thinking. “I think when it’s done well, horror has always been a really good way of reflecting the society we live in,” he says. “It’s what it’s always done, going back to [George] Romero’s early films. I’ve grown up loving those films and wanting to make films like that. I think they can best talk about the world we live in.”

In addition to the physical work of animating his zombie character Senan—finding his movement as an infected person and the evolution toward the cure—Keeley went deep in examining the emotional component of this character’s journey, someone who has done terrible things that were beyond his control, and is trying to make amends.

“I had to do a lot of work, in terms of thinking about, What is the most despicable thing that a person can do in life, serve their time for that, and then be released back into society? I did a lot of research on sex offenders who have served their time and have to try to find a place to live, and how they’re treated, trying to get to the core of the humanity of that,” the actor reveals. “More about how they feel, and less about the connotations of what they’ve done. I think that was the crux of it for me.”

While Page was “more thinking about the impacts of trauma, and fear, and grief and regret”—approaching the project like any other family drama—she didn’t mind getting the opportunity to wield an ax. “[But] I was more blown away with what David was able to accomplish with this budget and this amount of time,” she says. “It was truly extraordinary.”

To hear more from The Cured director David Freyne—about finding the rules of the world in his zombie movie—and stars Ellen Page and Sam Keeley, click above.

Deadline Studio at TIFF 2017 is presented by Calii LoveWatford GroupPhilosophy Canada, and Equinox. Special thanks to Dan Gunam at Calii Love for location and production assistance; and Ontario Camera for equipment assistance. Video producer: Meaghan Gable; lighting and camera: Neil Hansen; design: Dialla Kawar; sound recording: Ida Jokinen.