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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 02.14.14] Canada zombies drama



Forget vampires, we're now full into the zombie takeover of the entertainment world. That's not necessarily a bad thing, especially when zombie movies are starting to move away from the survivalist story to a take a more dramatic turn and The Return is a good entry into the later category.

Spanish director Manuel Carballo's English language debut takes place in the modern day but in an alternate reality some three decades after the first zombie outbreak. It's not explained how the first outbreak occurred or where and how it started only that it happened and millions died. Since then, the government has been working to synthesize a vaccine to keep the infected healthy, essentially turning them from single minded, human consuming monsters to regular people living the day to day. But the price of normalcy is high: the so-called "returned" must take a daily dose of a drug that keeps them human and there are rumours that the drug supplies are running out.


Alex (Kris Holden-Ried) is returned. He and his girlfriend Kate (Emily Hampshire) live a quiet life with the exception that Alex is always looking over his shoulder. Though there are treatment centers and thousands if not millions of returned living in the city, they are outsiders, many, Alex included, hiding their condition for fear of persecution. It's this fear that provides the central drive for The Returned: the fear of being found out, of losing friends, family and work and always the fear that one day, that cure won't be available.

Kate, a doctor working with returned, has been planning for a worst-case-scenario, building a stock of vaccine. You know, just in case. When it's discovered that supplies may be temporarily dwindling as a new alternative treatment is developed, the pair go on the run, taking a helping hand from close friends to whom they've revealed Alex's secret.

The Returned works because it doesn't get caught up in the epidemic. It's explained and then we move into the real story. Good thing too because that story's been mined numerous times. Instead, Hatem Khraiche's script approaches the story from a different angle, turning attention to the personal struggles of two individuals constantly living in a state of fear. The Returned plays out like a dystopian thriller in which big brother is about to take control and that story is far more interesting than the run of the mill zombie movie.

For the most part, The Returned doesn't even feel like a zombie movie but when necessary, there are flashes of blood, violence and occasionally a clear view of the fantastic zombie design; this is all about the relationship drama and Holden-Ried, who has quickly jumped from nameless werewolf in a lacklustre franchise to leading man, dominates the screen, outshining Hampshire who is good but occasionally seems out of place in some of the scenes.

The Returned is great because it doesn't tread the same old zombie story and because it takes interesting approach and commentary to life not only in this future but in a reality where minorities are persecuted. It fumbles a little in the end (there's a rather shameful set-up for a sequel) but overall, The Returned is an affecting, contemplative zombie movie.

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stephen (5 years ago) Reply

In The Flesh ,british tv mini series last year did this exact storyline ...check it out if the above movie catches your fancy

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Beppe (5 years ago) Reply

Nothing is new in the zombie universe.
I propose a ten years zombie embargo.

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billy (5 years ago) Reply

It's a shame that was never suggested for vampires years ago...

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Marina (5 years ago) Reply

Thanks for the recommendation Stephen. I'll definitely look it up!

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Hal (5 years ago) Reply

You can see a few trailers for in the Flesh on the BBC America site

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Lance (5 years ago) Reply

"nameless werewolf in a lacklustre franchise " I hope they are talking about Underworld rather than his character Dyson in Lost Girl.

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Marina (5 years ago) Reply

Oh yeah. I love LOST GIRL.


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