In a post-zombie world, where the infected live normal lives, their retroviral drug is running out.
Most would guess from the title alone that a film by the name of “The Returned” could go either the way of ghosts or zombies. Zombie themes have become so frequent that it’s an easy statement to make that 1 out of 5 new horror films are zombie-rooted. So knowing that it is also becoming harder for filmmakers to get inventive in their story lines and horror themes. “The Returned” does borrow some commonality with other films but stands out in its exception with a greater sense of sympathy and personal struggle. The term “the returned” refers to those who have become infected that are treated before they have a chance to “turn”. I believe it’s 36 hours for full transformation, giving the infected a chance obtain treatment that suppresses the illness per way of a injection they call “Return Protein”.
Essentially it keeps the virus at bay preventing it from spreading through the bloodstream. Those who have been bit and contract this, are required to register themselves as one of the “returned”. Call it a government mandate of sorts that identifies those who contracted the virus. Not unlike mutant classification that was made popular in the X-men films.
The time is the present, with reports of the various infected becoming chaotic in the form of maniacal murderers who bear the traits of traditional zombies. While this theme aspect is really nothing new, it is modified to include the element of “supply and demand” that is more in line with films that take on apocalyptic resource depletion themes.
As the scientists rush to create a vaccine that will reverse the effect, the planet has become undone with those infected trying to secure as many batches of the “Return Protein” as they are allowed. Meanwhile there are those who believe that stockpiling “acquired” extra batches will ensure their survival while testing is still in motion.
Kate, (Emily Hampshire) a leading doctor in the field of the epidemic, finds that she must also do what she can to keep her boyfriend Alex (Kris Holden-Ried) from failing into remission. Alex, a local music teacher, does what he can to hide the fact that he too is one of the “returned”, though things are getting harder as the supply of protein injections are becoming scarce and harder to acquire.
“The Returned” while keeping its grounding in the zombie genre, is a film that is more about human emotion, relationships and what others will do in the threat of just trying to survive. Alex and Kate find that even their closet friends are not beyond stabbing them in the back when the pressure is on. Alex who has managed to stay ahead of the game also finds that his worst nightmare is only a vile away from realization making for a dramatic struggle that he and Kate are about to face.
As a horror film, the zombie threat is provided when needed but doesn’t take the lead as others of this genre have. We see enough of the destruction, chaos, and murder to know that its always a factor but never to the point of overshadowing the dramatics of the film.
Director Manuel Carballo and writer Hatem Khraiche have created a new genre piece that offers a sense of compassion that is rarely seen in most zombie films. The acting here is superb making for a dynamic thriller and emotional roller coaster of dread and survival. While the present is inundated with zombie releases, you can look to this product as fresh reward tot he alternatives. Remarkably jolting and dramatically intense, “The Returned” is a great film!