Published Mar 28, 2014The Returned should have been a great zombie film. On paper, it appears that way: in a slightly dystopian future where a zombie-like virus has twice overtaken the human population, a new treatment allows the infected to live a relatively normal existence. As the treatment becomes politicized and its availability dwindles, a doctor and her infected boyfriend struggle to keep him healthy.
The washed-out colour palette certainly suggests that the film aspires to grittiness, but everything about Manuel Carballo's direction is wrong. Actors are miscast and, even worse, struggle with pacing; awkward pauses punctuate most of their conversations, while other times the actors run their lines back and forth like it's their first table read. These are particularly bad problems to have in a zombie movie that's short on actual zombies. More concerned with the political behind-the-scenes of a zombie-infested world, The Returned has pretensions of being meaningful without knowing how to be.
Without anything to ignite the audience's suspension of disbelief, there's an inherent ridiculousness that's hard to ignore: that we've seen what happens in real life when an actual virus infects large parts of our population. What can The Returned illuminate about the politicization of human suffering that the AIDS crisis hasn't already?
The zombie genre stopped bothering with metaphors long ago. With AMC's meandering The Walking Dead so massively popular, it's not hard to see why. But like any other genre, these films should at least aspire to be entertaining, if not interesting too.