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John’s Horror Corner: The Returned (2013), a perfect zombie movie that doesn’t at all feel like a “zombie” movie in the best possible way.

November 27, 2014

The-Returned-2013-Movie-PosterMY CALL: A perfect zombie movie that doesn’t at all feel like a “zombie” movie in the best possible way. Shift your expectations appropriately away from gory horror to a very human, relationship-driven drama and you, too, should love this film. Very powerful. MOVIES LIKE The Returned: There is no proper match to this film, which is part of its splendor. Recent werewolf and vampire films like Wer (2013) and Afflicted (2013) have taken contemporary approaches as well, but still err in being “overly supernatural” and seem to lose sight of plausibility as their stories progress. 28 Days Later (2002) and The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) did better, but they didn’t necessarily feel plausible…just not so radically impossible.

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From the opening credits we are presented powerful imagery from the past of a brutal, traumatic, and even plausible domestic attack in which a wife and kids are cannibalized by a loved one-turned-zombie.

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Shifting to the present, we meet Alex (Kris Holden-Ried; Underworld: Awakening, Lost Girl). He appears in every way to be a regular guy in a regular happy relationship talking about regular things…”it’s time we told them,” he says to Kate (Emily Hampshire; Good Neighbors, The Cradle). The kind of thing you’d say about informing your family of good news or bad; a pregnancy, an engagement, or even cancer.

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Cut to a hospital and we see Kate treating people in the “Returned Unit.” Patients, small talk with co-workers, kind bedside manner, “good news” from doctors…everything seems normal until a doctor’s advice to parents taking their recovered child home seems just “a bit abnormal,” as we are introduced to the fact that this “returned” child is being returned to his parents with instructions to give him an injection every day…an injection for which it is rumored that supply will soon fail to meet demand. Kate assures the parents that everything is fine, then secretly stockpiles the drug at home. A drug that keeps the virus at bay for no more than 24-36 hours.

“Returned” is a household term met with adversity–much like abortion. And likewise, it has it’s protestor demonstrations, financial interests and political conflict. Whether “returned” or not–people are scared…people are angry…people are in denial…people are desperate…and people want to live normal lives. Eventually, some people even turn on the people they love.

In this world the threat of zombies is real, and it truly “feels” real. This film’s approach to the “zombie” is perfect and, in essence, this feels nothing at all like a zombie movie. The premise is shockingly plausible and I was immersed. Only during the most limited “turned-zombie scenes” does this feel momentarily like a zombie film–but such scenes were handled well and fail to challenge my investment in the realness of the story. The gore was very little and very, very rare. What we see is done well. But even as a totally camp-tastic, rubber-guts-ophilic gorehound I still absolutely loved this film.

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As we observe the downward spiral leading to the much feared “next epidemic,” the cast does a fantastic job infecting us with urgency. The relationships between the characters are palpably strong. We feel them, we empathize for them, we want them to be okay and, when things grow dire, we feel it tugging at our heart strings.

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Shift your expectations appropriately away from horror to very human, relationship-driven drama and you, too, should love this film. It had me totally committed from beginning to the very powerful end. Very powerful.

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