Monday, September 24, 2018

They Came Back (2003)

One day, the dead walk among the living, totaling over 70 million people world wide and at least 13,000 in the town alone. A town council comes together to study the returned people and find a way to reintegrate them into society. Some people choose to accept their returned family members while others choose to leave them at a refugee camp made up of warehouses. Is it possible for these returned to reintegrate into society or will their true nature leave them rejected?

They Came Back is a slow moving, melancholy film with unconventional zombies. These zombies look like anyone else and don't realize any time has passed from their deaths, which all occured 10 years ago or less. Most of the returned (65%) are over 60 years old and only 10% are under 40.  All are unharmed and physically healthy, but run about 5 degrees cooler than the average human. Their behavior is similar to one with post-traumatic aphasia or a sever concussion. They have sluggish speech, are absent mentally, and are out of synch with reality. Seeing the baby in the refugee camp hit hard because of the emotion of the parents who lost him and then regain a version of him again. As the film goes on, they are revealed to have an urge to walk around at least 15km a day, congregate at night, and get agitated. Then, people realize that they are not quite like how they were before.

These returned people have brought some problems to the society they have come back to. Should families be forced to collect loved ones or can they stay at the refugee camp? How is the economy going to be affected now that so many elderly who were previously dead will now start collecting pensions and government assistance again? How should these people be allowed to reintegrate to society? It's decided that three to six months will be spent at the camp and then they will be allowed to return home. Some return to jobs, but it's clear later that they can't do higher up or creative positions any longer. Then, they are relegated to low skill, low responsibility positions. Eventually, they are also drugged to keep them docile and sleeping at night because of their tendency to wander around and escape their homes.

The film focuses on a few families to show the personal effect of this event. Rachel's husband Mathieu returns and she finds herself avoiding him at first and then continuing their relationship as normal. She is the only one who sees the ultimate plan of the returned. Their initial encounter when they rekindle their relationship truly shows the tension, fear, and awkwardness they feel. Sylvain returns to his parents and while his father tries hard to pretend he is a normal child, his mother sees that something is missing. I was surprised at how nuanced this was. It could have easily been from a place of fear and hatred, but it seemed to come from a deep understanding that her son just wasn't who he used to be anymore on a fundamental level. This human element grounds the film and shows the effects on realistic families.

They Came Back is a slow, emotional film that focuses on zombies' affect on society and their loved ones. The only problems with it are the dated nature of the technology and the ending. The government method of monitoring the returned are low resolution infrared cameras on balloons. It looks silly and is one of the only thing that dates the film. The ending just seems so abrupt and tacked on when everything else was so well crafted. Other than these two points, the film captures the realism of such a supernatural event and has one of the creepiest opening sequences I've seen.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

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