I am still doing my best to watch things with the infection theme that aren’t necessarily the same old zombie stories. This one looked interesting because it seemed to be focused on a world where we actually got a treatment for a zombie virus and what that world would look like. Turns out it looks a lot like if you took any illness based drama and then made it have the background threat of people turning into the undead. Which, you know, adds a little spice to the recipe.
During the credits, we get a scene of a child dealing with the classic zombie movie stuff and then running off which then cuts to her now, as a doctor. Kate works in the “returned ward” of the hospital administering care to those that have been infected with the zombie disease. We also find out that her husband, Alex, is one of the returned and she has been sneaking extra doses from work. You see, there are rumors that the supply of the retroviral drug are running out. We see how people both pro and anti-returned deal with the prospect of the treatment running out while Alex and Kate try to deal with the dramatic turn their life takes.
As with most zombie films, the zombies are a stand in for something else. This one seems like it would have been much more timely if it came during the 80s since the zombie virus is seems to be a stand-in for the AIDS virus and the panic that followed it. In fact, we get a screen at one point that shows that the first zombie outbreak was in 1981, the same year the U.S. acknowledged the presence of HIV as a thing. We get the same discrimination, distrust and misinformation that went along with that as well. It makes for an interesting parallel but it’s much harder to identify with the “we just need to treat them like anybody else” crowd when the consequence for missing a dose is turning into a literal flesh-eating monster.
The horror in this comes much more from the actions of other people than anything to do with zombies. There are no jump scares and, outside of the opening credits, there is only one real scene where we see a full blown zombie in action. We do, however, see people murder children just because they are infected and several times we see people selfishly trying to get doses at the expense of others, including our main characters. The ending is definitely the weakest part of the film. No spoilers but it feels kind of needlessly mean and goes on far longer than it should. If it had ended maybe 5 minutes earlier with maybe some slight changes, I think it would have been a much better end to the story.
I give The Retuned a 3.5 out of 4. In all I liked the story and how they handled it, even if it wasn’t a real horror movie.
Favorite thing in the movie: The “coming out” scene where Alex tells his brother about being one of the returned.
Least favorite thing: The end of the movie is pretty much terrible.