My first reaction to having to watch yet another
zombie movie? Ugh. I decided to swear them off after the rather
toothless PG-13 version of "World War Z". And this is coming from an idolizer
of George Romero’s early and much-imitated body of work.
it didn’t take long for "The Returned" to establish itself as having more
ambition than just being another excuse for flesh-eating monsters to
run amok while humans attempt to eradicate their organ-gorging kind.
Instead, it is less of a horror flick and more of a suspense thriller with
sci-fi elements that possesses both brains–some sacrificed in messy
fashion, of course–and a heart, as it makes a statement about an
imaginary social issue that reflects those conflicts facing our country
Instead of, say, the haves
vs. the have-nots or legislation against illegal immigrants, there is a
battle between the healthy and the infected. A zombie outbreak that
happened a while ago that caused millions to die has since been
contained, thanks to a miracle of modern medicine. If caught in time,
those bitten can receive a daily shot to stave off their transformation
into snarling blood-thirsty fiends. These beings who find themselves in
this human-zombie limbo are known as the Returned and not everyone is
happy about their presence.
this new normal is Toronto couple Kate (Emily Hampshire, a near-ringer
for Parker Posey) and Alex (Kris Holden-Ried, a near-ringer for musician
Richard Thompson). She is a doctor who specializes in treating the
Returned and he is a talented guitar teacher who happens to be one of
the Returned. That they live in a fabulous high-rise condo with
ultra-modern furnishings and seem mad for each other lead us to believe
that such a situation might work.
who keeps her conflict of interest hidden from others at the hospital,
over-confidently explains to the rightfully concerned parents of a young
boy who must be injected every day for the rest of his life that,
“Being one of the Returned is a privilege, not a curse.” Of course, she
is just setting herself up to be proven wrong.
enough, the supply of antiviral serum is in danger of being depleted.
Research is underway to create a synthetic variety but may not be
available as quickly as first thought. The pending drought increases the
opposition to keeping the infected alive. Some want to quarantine these
stigmatized survivors, while others stage protests against their very
As matters worsen and
violence breaks out as the stock continues to dwindle, Kate–who
already was getting Alex’s supply under the counter–decides it’s
time to they go on the run and hide out with the help of their
supportive friends, who offer refuge at their remote chalet.
there, "The Returned"’s plot direction too often settles for being more
predictable than its initial setup. I found myself thinking “uh-oh”
again and again as the story took another expected turn. Hint: If you
walk into an unmanned gas station in a zombie movie, chances are that
noise in the back room is probably a sign to flee, not a reason to check
out what is going on.
director Manuel Carballo offsets the lack of surprise with such efficient suspense builders as propulsive music, ambient noise,
realistic lighting and judicious handheld camerawork while efficiently
explaining the science and politics behind what is happening. What is
most appreciated is the sense of everyday routine that he creates–you
feel as if this could really happen right here, right now–and the fact
that the sensitive, low-key performances by Hampshire and Holden-Ried keep the viewer invested in what happens to their relationship. "Warm
Bodies" was one thing. But these are two adults trying to keep their love
alive under horrible circumstances and it is compelling to watch.