The Returned is a 2013 Spanish-Canadian thriller film directed by Manuel Carballo, written by Hatem Khraiche, and starring Emily Hampshire, Kris Holden-Ried, Shawn Doyle, and Claudia Bassols. It has a horror theme of zombies but the focus is less on that and more on the survivors of a disease that turns people into zombies and on the relationship of the two main leads and their friends.
In the alternate universe of this film, a plague that turns victims into zombies first showed up in the 1980s and causes the death of over 100 million people. Scientists do heavy research for a cure but are only able to come up with a serum that needs to be injected daily to ward off the effects. If the subject misses a single dose they quickly change into a feral state and attack people. The formula can only extracted from the dead zombies and hence by current times supplies have started running low. The infected humans have to endure discrimination, taunts and even violent threats from bigoted humans.
Kate, who is a physician in Toronto working with the Returned, has just finished counseling a young boy’s parents on the treatment for him. We then see her buying black market does of the cure, from a pharmacist at the same hospital, and stocking them for fear that they will run out soon. Kate’s own husband Alex, a music teacher, got infected 6 years ago when he attempted to assist a man whom he thought was having a seizure. Alex was treated in an army medical facility and then moved to a hospital, where he met Kate and they fell in love. At dinner that weekend Alex confesses to his best friend Jacob & Jacob’s wife Amber that he has been infected for 6 years and they support him. When protestors become violent and the government begins to set up quarantine camps, Jacob and his wife Amber invite Alex and Kate to stay with them outside the city. Kates hospital was attacked by a trio of masked men who killed the returned in their beds. Alex narrowly avoids both an attempted murder but is able to turn the gun towards the attacked and the gun goes off. He & Kate dump the body in the water. Early the next morning Kate goes back into the city to meet her source and buy more doses but finds her dead. On the woman’s body Kate finds one of Amber’s false nails and panics.
She calls Alex who searches the house and finds his supply gone and both Amber & Jacob are missing as well. Alex finds a single dose and a note from Jacob that apologizes for taking the rest, as Amber has become infected. Alex becomes desperate and tries calling Jacob who tearfully tries to justify his actions. Kate returns to the city and reveals her dilemma to the hospital chief, who gives her the hospital’s entire stash. However, the father of the infected boy Kate had treated, overhears her talking to Alex on the phone about the doses and attempts to steal the container, and, in the ensuing fight over it, the entire contents are destroyed. Kate returns to Alex at their apartment and finds him having chained himself in his studio. As he slowly experiences the changes due to not getting the dose he hands Kate the gun and asks her to shoot him. Kate has flashbacks to her childhood when she could not bring herself to kill her mother who had just been bitten & infected by her father but does shoot him offscreen. Later back in the city she goes to the hospital and in told by the chief that the that researchers have created a synthesized treatment! Unable to control her grief she breaks down. In the final scene, some months later, a pregnant Kate prepares to track & kill Jacob and Amber at a book tour.
Good movie with a sober story about the survivors of a plague rather than your typical infected zombie flick. The focus on an infected trying to stay that way and his spouse who wants to help him makes the film unique in it’s genre and hence should be treated more like a thriller than a horror movie. For a small budget ($5 mill) film, I was impressed so a 7.5 outta 10!