In Manuel Carballo's pre-apocalyptic zombie drama "The Returned" — set years after an outbreak has been medically contained — getting bitten is no walking-death sentence, as long as you get your timely zombie protein shots.
Then you can still be a functioning — if often discriminated against, or outright hated — member of a still-fearful society. So why, then, is returned-advocate doctor Kate (Emily Hampshire) secretly hoarding doses for her loving, infected boyfriend Alex (Kris Holden-Ried)? Because supplies are dwindling, anti-returned vigilante violence is on the rise, and a synthetic cure hasn't been developed yet.
"The Returned" (not to be confused with the French television series) has fun setting up its time-bomb premise, with the green vials of life-sustaining medicine a plot device worthy of Hitchcock. But the moody-tragic pretensions of Carballo and screenwriter Hatem Khraiche get the best of them. The result is a second-half fizzle in logic, narrative and suspense, especially with regards to a predictable twist regarding Kate's and Alex's supportive, married friends.
Though an admirable shake-up of the typically overbearing, munch-intensive undead yarn, "The Returned" is still a far cry from the smarts-and-shocks zombie allegories George Romero mastered.
"The Returned." Running time: 1 hour, 37 minutes. No MPAA rating. At Laemmle's Music Hall 3, Beverly Hills.
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