The Returned (Les Revenants)
- Henry Northmore
- 16 July 2013
The eerie 2004 French feature film originally titled They Came Back inspired the chilling TV series
Not to be confused with the French TV show currently screening on Channel 4, this is the original 2004 horror film the series is based upon. They share a similar eerie, moody ambience, the plot hits many of the same notes, Frédéric Pierrot stars in both, (as different characters), but the details are substantially different.
It begins with a stream of bodies walking from the local cemetery as over 70 million across France come back from the dead. 65% are over 60, and it's as much a logistical problem as an emotional one - at first. The film centres on the effects on a small municipal town as family members try to readjust to seeing their loved ones again. Both parties have been affected by their absence - the living have moved on and tried to accept their loss, and their grieving process shattered by this inexplicable turn of events, while the returnees are distant, remote, withdrawn. They have no short-term memory and appear to exist in a dream world. They flock like birds congregating at night. There's something ominous about their presence.
In tone The Returned is similar to The Birds and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and has a wonderfully disconcerting considered pace. The film is more ethereal than the TV show (there is no killer on the loose for example), and is a more focussed, low-key, personal story - in many ways simply because eight episodes gives the writers of the TV series more time to explore further ideas. It would be wrong to label the returnees 'zombies', even though they are technically back from the grave - the term 'living dead' feels far more appropriate (there's no brain eating or cannibalism in The Returned). In fact, despite the subject matter, The Returned isn't really a horror movie at all, and is instead a contemplative off-beat drama taking a very original look at how society copes with death.