January 24, 2018 at 12:00 PM EST

In the Dublin-set horror movie The Cured, a treatment has been found for a virus which turns its victims into cannibalistic fiends. That’s the good news. The bad? This cure only works on three-quarters of the afflicted and many people are not too happy about the prospect of rubbing shoulders again with the folks who have been successfully treated. Written and directed by David Freyne, the film stars Ellen Page (Juno, Inception) as a journalist and mother of a young son who lost her husband the course of the outbreak but has now agreed to take in her brother-in-law, the recently-cured Senan.

“This is the infected film that sort of takes place after most of those other films end,” says Page. “A cure has been found for most, but not all, of the individuals infected and, after a couple of years of Dublin being ravaged by the situation, the cured people start being introduced back into society. But of course a lot of people definitely do not want them and are terrified about another outbreak. Senan is one of the cured, who is now being introduced back to society. Those who were infected remember what they’ve done, they’re left with that guilt, they’re left with the trauma of all of that, so it’s also about how they can even start integrating back into society again.”

Senan is played by Irish actor Sam Keeley (In the Heart of the Sea, Anthropoid) who, together with costar Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, had to appear convincingly “infected” during the film’s flashback scenes which show the carnage of the outbreak.

“It was a very specific thing that they had going on,” says Keeley. “Dave Freyne, our director, made a short film called The First Wave, which was kind of a prequel to this film and the lead actress in that was called Jane McGrath. She, along with Dave, came up with the movement, and the breathing, and they essentially created this version of their monster, if you like. Jane came in, and she was kind of a movement coach for myself, and Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, and couple of other people that were playing infected. They were more like wild animals, like wolves or something, than they were mindless beasts. It was very subtle changes to your physicality to make you seem just a bit more animalistic and more instinctual. But the breathing was a huge part of it, it was like their respiratory system is constantly moving a hell of a lot faster than ours. It took a while to make sure you didn’t hyperventilate and pass out, but once you got the hang of it, it was fun.”

IFC Films

Like many of the films in the zombie genre — or zombie-ish genre — there is more to The Cured than just people eating people.

“I know Dave, when he was writing the script, had in mind the banking crash in Ireland, in 2006-2007,” says Keeley. “While writing the script, he had no idea that years later we’d be dealing with an immigrant situation, we would be dealing with all the policies that are coming out of the political situation in America right now. It seems the world has become a very hostile place for certain groups of people, whether that be [because of] a religious affiliation, or a sexual orientation or, right now, a gender. I think it’s very relevant. I just hope people can watch it in terms of that and getting more out of it than just flesh-eating monsters.”

The Cured premiered at last year’s Toronto Film Festival — though not without a hiccup.

“We had this rather unfortunate thing happen at the world premiere where the fire alarm went off at one of the biggest moments of the film,” says Page. “What was pretty special to see was, after everyone waited outside for 20 or so minutes, everybody came back in to watch the rest of the film. So that was nice.”

IFC Films is releasing The Cured in theaters, on demand, and via digital HD, Feb. 23. Exclusively watch the film’s trailer, above.

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