All things zombie related have been skyrocketing in popularity over the past few years which means a lot of the quality has been driven down in the excess. It’s easy to lose faith and write them off, but there are still some really good zombie flicks that grace the screen every year. Thankfully, Manuel Carballo’s The Returned is one of them.
The Returned in set in a post-apocalyptic world in which we’ve managed to find a “cure” for zombies, if taken soon enough. The catch is that the vaccine only controls the virus, but doesn’t eliminate it entirely, and must be taken daily to work. Kate (Emily Hampshire), a doctor working with “the returned”, and her husband Alex (Kris Holden-Reid) are trying to cope in this new world. Things become increasingly difficult as Alex, unbeknownst to those outside their relationship, is actually one of the returned and vaccine supplies are running low.
Instead of focusing solely on the zombies and action, The Returned is a subdued piece about the people and life that takes place during the crisis. Those that have returned are essentially ticking time bombs. There have been incidences and outbreaks in the past, and many people want them eradicated entirely. There are protests and anti-returned groups that lead to several tense scenes throughout the movie as regular people pose more of a threat to the returned than the undead do to them. It’s a slow burn, but there’s many side stories surrounding the focal point that keep the plot moving along nicely. There’s a whole lot to like here. The two leads are excellent together. There’s not a lot of wasted screen time either as every scene serves a purpose in the overall scheme, and there’s also a somber tone that underscores the utterly depressing film taking place.
The only real negative about The Returned is that the ending is a bit predictable as the movie progresses. Other than that there are not a whole lot of gripes, and for me, The Returned is the first great movie of 2014. It’s not strictly a horror, but that’s definitely not a knock against the film. It packs just as big a punch as any horror film you’ll see.
The Returned opens in limited theaters February 14.