Review

Review

FEARNET Movie Review: 'The Returned'

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It's certainly no big secret that you can stuff all sorts of interesting social commentary into a zombie story. From George Romero's 1968 classic Night of the Living Dead to the current TV series The Walking Dead, writers have been finding new and frequently clever ways to use the "zombie apocalypse" as a simple-yet-powerful analogy about the flaws, foibles, and shortcomings of normal humanity. 

 
Borrowing a thematic page from films like Children of Men and Blindness (both superior films, but the comparison seems apt), The Returned focuses on the early stages of a "fantastic" yet disturbingly realistic apocalypse -- and it focuses a lot more on the personal stakes of a crumbling world than it does in slam-bang zombie-stompin' horror mayhem. The Returned, for lack of a better phrase, is a "horror drama," and if that sounds like a warning, well, it's not. This is a smart, intense, and frequently tragic horror story.
 
Kate (Emily Hampshire) and Alex (Kris Holden-Ried) are a great couple: he's a musician, she's a doctor; they're crazy in love. Except for one small problem: Alex is actually one of "the returned," which means he used to be a full-bore zombie -- but he's been cured! Yes, brace yourselves, horror fans, because the admirably sober and sci-fi-friendly premise of The Returned posits that humanity has discovered a cure for zombie-dom. Unfortunately the cure can only be extracted from actual zombies -- and once you eradicate all the zombies, well, your medicine is gone, too. And that's when things get really ugly for "the returned."
 
Take it as a "disease analogy" like Cronenberg's version of The Fly or take it as a simple-yet-pointed piece of self-reflective social commentary like the aforementioned Blindness (a rather underrated movie, by the way), or as a combination of the two mixed with some impressive horror threads and a tight narrative energy that leads to a legitimately intense finale... but there's simply a lot to like about The Returned
 
The two leads are excellent, in particular, but there's also a moody and somber tone that serves the material very well. Subplots come together smoothly while a few surprises pop up, and there's a welcome sense of simple humanity to the film. Chases, escapes,and gruesome zombie gore are great stuff, but kudos to director Manuel Carballo and writer Hatem Khraiche for illustrating why we'd even struggle to stay alive in the first place.
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