Sunday, July 13, 2014

Horror Film Review

The Returned (2013):  Spanish zombie flick, in English, filmed in Canada.  Yes, muy loco, eh?  Anyway, it's a drama set in a post zombie apocalypse world where they've learned to suppress the affliction via drug injections.  I know, it sounds like a rip-off of the mostly decent British TV show In the Flesh.  These "aftermath" stories seem to be gaining popularity.  For that you can confidently blame/credit The Walking Dead.  As I am not a great fan of aftermath tales, The Returned caused me no little trepidation.  My concern, as it turns out, was not without foundation.  By the by, what follows is chockablock full of spoilers.

The film focuses on Kate (Emily Hampshire) and her husband Alex (Kris Holden-Ried).  She's a doctor, he teaches music.  He's also one of the returned.  Kate's position ensures a steady supply of the drug; however, since it's concocted from the spinal fluid of the afflicted who didn't survive, and since the number of those dying is dwindling, supplies have begun to run dangerously low.  Never fear!  The government is working on a synthetic version which will be ready any day now.  Uh-huh.  Panic ensues.  The returned are rounded up and placed in secure facilities "for their own safety."  Right. 

Seeing the writing on the wall, Kate and Alex flee the city for the mountain home of friends Jacob (Shawn Doyle) and Amber (Claudia Bassols).  Unfortunately, these besties are anything but as they steal Alex's remaining supply of anti-zombie juice and bolt.  Turns out, they forgot to mention Amber is also a returned.  Resigned to his fate, Alex chains himself up and awaits the inevitable.  There's much sobbing and lamenting.  Kate's got the gun and does what's necessary.  At this point, I must ask a question:  Did you see the film The Mist?  The one based on the Stephen King story?  Remember the ridiculous ending?  Yes, the government came through in the end and got the new drug to work.  Too bad Kate and Alex weren't watching TV or listening to the radio or checking their phones or...  What an annoying way to end a film.  Contrived and manipulative.  Although to be fair, this is somewhat ameliorated by Kate's subsequent decision to hunt down and kill Jacob and Amber.  Now that's realism, folks.  It's what I would do.

The Returned is slow and cerebral.  It spotlights prejudice and forces you to question how far you'd go to save the one you love.  That is to say, it's not a horror movie.  It's a drama.  Zombies just happen to be a convenient (and wildly popular) conceit.  Not the first time filmmakers used the undead to make a sociological statement.  Hell, look at Romero's films. The only problem, though, is that those most likely to watch a zombie flick will avoid The Returned like the plague.  Why?  No running and screaming and munching on a scale they're accustomed to.  And then there's the ending that will make you want to punch your flat screen.

The Skinny

Acting:  I can't fault any performance, and boy, I really wanted to.
Story:  We've seen it before but probably not in such a dramatic context.  Close but not quite in the realm of soap opera.
Direction:  Ponderous.
Production Values:  You know how films and TV shows shot in Canada have that certain look?  Yeah.  Like that.
Gore/FX:  There are one or two scenes of acceptable, if not too-quick, carnage.  If CGI was used, I don't remember it.
Scares:  It's the same in English and Spanish.  No.
Ending:  Since it's no longer PC to say retarded, I'll stick with annoying.
Verdict:  Should you see The Returned?  If you're a zombie nerd like myself, it may be worth a look simply as a curiosity, or if your goal in life is to watch every zombie flick ever made.  Otherwise, go watch The Walking Dead or In the Flesh.  These are aftermath stories you can (sorry about this) really sink your teeth into.

Rating:  2 out of 5

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