In this household, we are zombie fans. I will say that I don’t necessarily watch zombie flicks and see them as political statements or testaments to the world at large… until now!
I originally decided to watch The Returned (2013) for two reasons:
1) It’s a zombie movie which sounded cool.
And, to be honest, I was actually surprised. This isn’t a traditional horror movie, despite the topic – zombies. Instead, it takes a look at the idea that zombies are actual people – something I admit to forgetting when I see hordes of them coming at someone on the screen.
Note: There are potential spoilers throughout this review, so you may want to stop here and return after watching the movie.
Kate (Emily Hampshire) and Alex (Holden-Ried) are just a normal couple, right? WRONG! She is one of the leading experts in the field of this zombie virus, and Alex… well, he’s a musician.
Guess how they met? Yep, Alex is just a nice guy, and when he saw someone lying on the street, he stopped to help. Unfortunately, the guy was a zombie, and he bit Alex.
Alex realizes what is happening and gets help, and it is here he meets an idealistic Kate. They fall in love, and do their best to keep Alex’s condition a secret.
Unfortunately, it isn’t long before the cure – a protein that acts as a barrier against the virus – starts to run low. Fortunately, for the couple, they have been stockpiling the protein. And each dose is another 36 hours of Alex’s life. For others, rumors of the shortage get out, and panic starts to set in.
When the rumor is finally confirmed, and folks are waiting to see if a synthetic derivative actually work, it is decided that the “returned” – as those infected are called – will be sent to surveillance camps to be watched and protected. Here, I can’t help but think of the internment camps of WWII. And that is the image the director, Manuel Carballo, gives us. These people, who look just like you and me, being herded onto buses and driven away from their lives, from those that love them.
At first I was pleased to see that the couple’s friends, Jacob (Shawn Doyle) and Amber (Claudia Bassols), seemed to accept Alex when he told them his secret. They even convinced Alex and Kate to hide out at their vacation house while all of this was going down. Unfortunately, they had ulterior motives.
Seems Amber wasn’t just being the loyal friend. Oh no! Amber has been hiding her own little secret. She’s one of the “returned” as well. Unfortunately, all of their money couldn’t buy them the contacts that Kate had as a doctor, and they lure the couple up to their (absolutely gorgeous) lake house as a means to isolate them and steal the drug.
And this is where the movie seemed a bit off to me – they go to the lake house to avoid Alex being sent away, but then they come back home for… something!? I spoke to my 6 year old for a minute, but I don’t think I missed anything. But I guess I must have! Anyway, Alex is attacked and almost murdered, though he finally gets the upper hand and kills his would-be assassin. Knowing they can’t turn to the police without getting Alex shipped off to camp, they opt to hide the body by weighing it down in a lake.
And then they’re back up at the lake house! Alex and Jacob have a heart-to-heart, and not knowing at this point that Jacob and his wife are thieves, it seems like a really genuine conversation between two friends!
But alas, while Kate goes to meet her contact, Eve, to obtain 60 more doses of the protein, you know things are about to go from bad to worse.
When Kate knocks, Eve doesn’t answer her door. But Kate discovers the door is open, and Eve is on the floor. Being a doctor, Kate drops to her knees and attempts to revive her friend, but it isn’t to be – Eve is gone. Kate does find something – a fingernail. And she recognizes the unique paint job. NO!
Yes, Amber killed Eve to get those 60 doses. They also stole the 114 Alex and Kate already had, and now they are in the wind.
Kate makes the decision to ask her boss if he has any ideas, if there is anything they can do. So the next day she sets out. In the meantime, Alex gets ahold of Jacob and begs him for half the doses, or even a few, anything! But good ol’ Jacob refuses.
Feeling helpless and not knowing what else to do, Alex fashions a prison for himself. He drills chains into the wall and creates shackles – effectively imprisoning himself in the room to wait for one last chance to see Kate before he turns.
Back in the city, Kate pours her heart out to her boss – a very kind man who gives her the last 50 doses the hospital has. As she’s going out to her car, we see a man lurking in the shadows, and it isn’t until he steals the case from her that I notice it is the father of a little boy that Kate treated at the beginning of the movie! A chase ensues, and Kate accidentally hits him with her car, causing him to drop the case and break all the vials of the protein.
Heartbroken, Kate rushes back to the cabin to spend Alex’s last hours with him.
And here is where the movie became just a bit more for me. Sure, he was going to turn into a zombie, but the two actors had a wonderful connection – a sort of desperate love that translated very well to this situation. The scenes put up were stark and visually simple, but very poignant. Kate holds Alex as the virus starts to overtake his body. He says he can’t breathe, and you can see Kate start to crumble. Their final goodbye is heartbreaking as Alex fears he is too far gone to let Kate kiss him goodbye, so they simply hug as her heart breaks.
And then, Kate has no choice. She shoots Alex and crumbles to the floor.
But you know this isn’t the end – and not only because there is still ten minutes left in the movie. No. Kate goes back to the city, and her boss tells her that the synthetic protein works, that things will be OK!
And that makes me hate Jacob and Amber just a little bit more.
“You go get your revenge, girl!” I say to the TV.
The next scene shows Kate in the house she and Alex used to dream about. And our girl, Kate, is heavily pregnant.
My first thought is: “Please let this baby be OK. At least give Kate something of Alex.”
And then I see the map Kate has on the wall. She’s tracking the movements of Jacob and Amber! YES!
The movie is over, and I can only imagine the grisly revenge Kate has planned for those two horrible people.
This wasn’t a gory movie with zombies biting hands and faces. No, this was a simple love story, if you will, with a horrific undertone. It was about loss and how far you would go for the one you love.
I wasn’t sure how I would feel about a movie like this, but I loved the spin they put on the whole zombie virus thing, and they did it well!
4 walkers out of five.