Reviewed By

Christopher Armstead
The zombie outbreak has occurred, but this time it did not end in the apocalyptic demise of mankind.  No sir, this time we got a handle on things.  Sure, hundreds of millions still died, but considering there are billions of us… we're good.  Here's the situation in this film 'The Returned' though… we have the disease under control, but the disease is still prevalent.  Say you get bit… if the health authorities can get you within 36 hours and administer this drug they've developed, one culled from the spinal fluid of the turned, then you will survive.  If they get you after 36 hours, you get a bullet to the head.  But even if they do get to you in time, you aren't cured.  Think of the disease like diabetes, but instead of insulin you have to shoot every day, it's this green stuff that keeps the disease at bay, with those survivors being called The Returned, with these humans being cataloged and tracked.  Probably not cool, but let's be honest, a couple of missed injections and soon they are mad, crazed, flesh eating zombies.  The problem, as of this point in time, is that this society has done such a fine job of keeping this disease at bay, there just aren't enough of the turned to get the drug from anymore… and this society doesn't like that.  Not one bit.  This is the story of one couple dealing with just this situation.

Kate (Emily Hampshire) is a doctor at Zombie Health Central who treats the Returned.  Align Kate, in this reality, with an abortion doctor from our reality.  One who believes in what she does, but is met with resistance from a very vocal group who thinks what she doing is wrong and will go extreme means to stop what she does.  Kate is married to Alex (Kris Holden-Reid) and these two kids just love each other to death.  Thing is, Alex is one of the returned.  It's a bit suspect, at least in regards to this film how Alex became one of the returned, however. I mean Alex stops into a store, sees a dude foaming at the mouth and goes to give him some aid.  Really Alex?  I mean really.  Did somebody miss the memo about the apocalyptic zombie disease?  The upside to Alex being a complete and total idiot is that he got sent to Zombie Clinic Central where he met the pretty lady, and the two fell in love.
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But as we mentioned, the drug is running low despite Kate using all of her connects to stockpile as much of the drug that she could using whatever means at her disposal.  But the main issue is that the anti-zombie faction that we mentioned earlier has really stepped up their efforts to stamp out The Returned.  Not only that, the government has begun rounding up the Returned so that they can be accounted for when this drug eventually does run out.  Kate and Alex are slightly ahead of the game as Alex's lifelong best friend Jacob (Shawn Doyle) and his wife Amber (Claudia Bassols) have been assisting them in keeping them one step ahead of the authorities, while Kate hopefully keeps her man alive until an alleged synthetic form of this drug is developed. 

But alas, some bad things are about to happen which will greatly challenge Kate's ability to make this thing she wants so desperately, to take place. 

Directed by Manuel Carballo, 'The Returned' is a different kind of zombie movie, and a refreshing kind of zombie movie in a way.  In fact it's not even a zombie movie to be honest with you, as it is actually a slightly melodramatic family themed thriller, with a subdued zombie backdrop, the kind of movie that would be at ease on the Lifetime Network… though don't let me saying that deter you if you happen to be one that despises those kinds of movies.  Just that it's a film with a strong female lead fighting difficult odds in an attempt to save her family, though the conclusion might keep it out of Lifetime consideration. 

Be warned, however, that this is a dialog heavy, character based film… one more concerned with ideas, concepts and allegory than say action, which could turn you against this film if you were looking for something with a little more pep in its step.  Pick your allegory… American WWII internment camps, the AIDS scare, right-wing militant activism… or more… because these are the challenges the characters have to deal with, not zombies.  Fear, as it is presented, is the enemy here.

And since this film is dialog and character driven, the success of this film rests on its actors.  Emily Hampshire shouldered the load well, emotionally taking us through the gauntlet that her character has to traverse, though at times her script and the narrative let her down.  More so, however, this narrative let Kris Holden-Reid down as his character was stuck doing a litany of questionable things which, when revisiting, only served the purpose of pushing the story into a direction where the plot needed to go, as opposed to feeling like a natural progression of the character.  In addition, the filmmakers didn't do all that great a job in hiding their hand for one of the 'surprises' of the film.  We saw it coming, and we aren't all that bright.

But all that being said, I did find the core of the movie to be very engrossing, and despite the relatively slow pacing, the story did engage me enough to keep me invested.  The performances were earnest and at the very least had me interested in these characters well-being and their outcome.

'The Returned' is a flawed drama, to be certain, and suffers a few missteps along the way, but overall I'd give it a positive grade and it was ultimately a satisfying dramatic thriller.
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