Attention, horror fans! The zombie genre has been revived. I have always found dramatic/’realistic’ zombie films and shows to be inferior to the funny ones (I do not find “The Walking Dead” or “28 Days Later” to be better than “Shaun of the Dead,” for instance.) Okay, I still don’t think this measures up to “Shaun of the Dead,” but “Les Revenants” is kind of invigorating the way the tosses the zombie genre on it’s head. Gone are the zombies that go ‘brains-brains’ and limp along on broken legs and out of sight are the brainless, running, ravenous creepers from “28 Days Later” and countless survival-horror video games.
What’s special about “Les Revenants” is the way it strikes at the emotional heart of the matter. You are forced to feel for the ‘zombies,’ who do not know they are dead at first, and who are often greeted by the living with apprehension and horror. In a small French town surrounded by a mountainous region, the citizens are coming back from the dead, fresh, and seemingly alive and well. Young Camille (Yara Pillartz) arrives home from a bus wreck that put her schoolmates to permanent rest, only to find that years have passed and her twin sister is now grown.
Lonely lesbian Julie (Céline Sallette, ) single and a survivor of a sadistic attack, takes in a mysterious little boy (Swann Nambotin.) But how innocent is he? Meanwhile, happily married Adele (Cotilde Hesme) is visited by her dead fiance (Pierre Perrier) and hefty bartender Toni (Grégory Gadebois) tries to keep his unhinged brother’s body count under check.
The approach here is quite different- the show is more artsy and laid-back than the more frenetic tales of it’s kind, but if there’s one thing for sure, it’s never boring. Mysterious plot-lines abound; secrets lurk in the souls of the most open-hearted characters. Some details are puzzling and other’s don’t make sense at all (akin to the twists and turns of “Lost”) and I hope the show doesn’t get overloaded in it’s second season. There’s certainly flashes of brilliance in this script.
The acting in the show is very powerful, and reinforces the ‘real’ approach to the premise. This is not the show for you if you want muscle men blasting away zombies with uzis, but PATIENT viewers will find a lot to love as the plot slowly unfurls. My favorite character died in the last episode, but I’m convinced he’s not gone for good, and that I will see him in the 2nd season.
If you like your zombie stories serious and pensive, with an emphasis on creepiness and mystery rather than guts ‘n gore, “Les Revenants” should quench your thirst for an alternative zombie thriller. This and”The Walking Dead” are both great, and I love them in different ways, but this wins for me- by a hair. I for one can’t wait until Sundance Channel broadcasts the second season. One to watch as soon as possible.