Friday Night Flix: The Returned

the returned 1Welcome to Friday Night Flix, where there’s never a need to leave the couch or put on pants. Each week I’ll recommend an under-the-radar movie currently available on one or more of the major streaming platforms. They won’t all be classics, but every selection is guaranteed to be 100% watchable or your money back.

On our last podcast, Impervious Rex and I had an entire “Who’s on First?” moment involving the French back-from-the-dead series Les Revenants – marketed on Sundance in America as The Returned – and its upcoming English language A&E remake, also called The Returned. Even more confusing, Les Revenants was based on a 2004 film of the same name. In honor of this apparent dearth of original titles, this week I chose a zombie movie called, you guessed it, The Returned (Netflix).

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Like the other Returned properties, this one is a dramatic thriller rather than straight-up horror. Though you get a few shambling, flesh-eating zombies, the focus is solidly on the characters.

In this world, the zombie apocalypse has come and gone without much impact on daily life. That’s because a miracle drug derived from the spinal fluid of the undead can halt the transformation process if delivered immediately after infection. The user has to maintain a daily dosing schedule for life, but otherwise they remain normal. Problems arise when the supply runs low.

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The acting and production values here are really pretty slick. It feels like a much more expensive movie than it is, probably owing to its dual citizenship in Spain and Canada. That means you get solid actors from both countries, all doing their best to appear ambiguously western so American audiences won’t know it’s a foreign film. This is becoming more and more common, and it’s generating some pretty solid results at B-movie prices. We’re all worried about China’s ever-growing influence on studio films. I see the makings of a far more insidious entertainment invasion from our cheerful neighbor to the north.

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For a long while The Returned is smart, stylish and logical. It unfortunately takes one or two cliche turns right at the end that somewhat undermine what’s gone before. For the most part though, the movie hangs together pretty well. It’s beautifully photographed and competently directed. And if nothing else the zombie retroviral angle is pretty novel.

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Added bonus: The main character is played by a pretty young thing named Emily Hampshire. (That’s her on the left.) She’s apparently a big-time Canadian TV star. Her next project is a Canadian show starring Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, and  and Chris Elliott. It is wonderfully titled Schitt’s Creek. This Canadian entertainment invasion may not be such a bad thing after all.

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