Les Revenants (They Came Back)

THIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS: Well, it doesn’t, not this time.  But that’s not to say that everything is hunky dory, either.

SYMPTOMS: The dead come back to life.  How, we don’t know.  Why, we don’t know.  They just come walking slowly, calmly, into town one day, everyone who’s died in the last ten years or so.  Not everyone is happy about this.

WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?  Well, we’re not going to panic, that’s for sure.  These aren’t monsters, they’re our friends, neighbors and loved ones.  They’ve come back to life for some reason and it’s a little weird, but that’s no reason to get excited.  We’re going to accept them back into our homes and into their old jobs and do our best to help them acclimate to their special circumstances.

WHERE DO WE LEAVE THINGS?  The dead, it turns out, have a mysterious plan of their own.  I’m not saying that to be coy, I mean I really don’t know what their plan is.  But they have one.

NOTES: As a zombie movie, this is the exact opposite of George Romero in every way.  In a Romero movie, the zombies claw and bite and gnaw at living flesh, here they calmly, blithely walk around town, meet up with their shocked and sometimes dismayed families, and try to go back to work.  In a Romero movie, the citizenry react with panic, dread and horror; here, they react with calm, level-headedness and careful planning.  Meetings are called, refugee centers are erected, the army is helpful and benign (well, it is the French army after all), and people keep their heads even though the whole scenario is creepy as all get-out.  In a Romero film the effects are flamboyant, the photography garish and the performances brash; here the effects are subtle to the point of invisibility, the photography lush and beautiful, the performances subtle and naturalistic.  Where Romero’s films are frantic, loud and nerve-shredding, this is elegant, stately and chilling.

The dead here are a little sluggish and not that bright, but they are not the mindless, staggering zombies of old.  They are every bit normal, regular people, just kind of “not there” to the same extent as the living.  This allows a woman to reconcile with her dead husband, parents to come to terms with their child’s death (or not), an elderly man to catch up to his deceased wife.  All the scenes of personal contact are unnervingand super-creepy.

A lot of time is spent discussing the logistical nightmares of housing the dead, providing them with jobs, giving them something to “do” in society instead of just wandering slowly around the city all day.  The fact that this is all done calmly and rationally only makes it that much more disturbing.

Mysterious, dreamlike and utterly original, the movie offers no explanation for causes or effects.  It’s not even a horror movie per se, more like a supernatural drama about the mysterious line separating the living and the dead.  
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5 Responses to “Les Revenants (They Came Back)”
  1. greyaenigma says:

    Sounds a little like Truly, Madly, Deeply on a massive scale.

  2. ghostgecko says:

    This sounds good. Is it on a region 1 dvd? I love zombie movies, always looking to see something new and good.

    It actually reminds me a little of the climax of the Corpse Bride (I happened to think of it since I saw it on TV last night) where the living are ready to have a showdown with the dead, and then a little boy recognizes one of the dead as his beloved granddad. Yes, total sap, but it works. One of the few things in that movie that did, besides the animation and the one song.

    That movie there is interesting because if you take away the drawbacks of zombies, rotting and brain-eating and so on, there’s not a lot of difference between a zombie and someone who’s had a stroke, is there? Zombies aren’t compelling just because they want to eat our brains, it’s because the one eating your brains is someone you know, and you yourself might become one. One of those human condition things. Probably why there’s an element of contagin in all classic monsters.