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Les Revenants (Mark's Take)

02/11/2004. Contributed by Mark R. Leeper

Buy Les Revenants in the USA - or Buy Les Revenants in the UK

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A creative and intelligent recycling of the horror concept of the dead returning, but this time it is used for non-horror purposes. Les Revenants runs into pacing problems toward the middle.

LES REVENANTS
(a film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: A creative and intelligent recycling of the horror concept of the dead returning, but this time it is used for non-horror purposes.  LES REVENANTS runs into pacing problems toward the middle. Rating: +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10

This film is a sort of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD without the horror premise. One day everybody who died in the previous ten years or so comes back to life. In a George Romero horror film the zombies want to eat the living and the premise is used for horror. In this film the dead have come back a little slower and not as bright as they were, but notably no more malicious than they were in life.

So all these dead people have returned. Now what? Who is going to feed and care for them? Can their small economy give them jobs? Will they be putting the living out of work? What problems are there in integrating them back into society? Do the dead feel oppressed by the living? Do the living feel endangered by the dead?

Certainly not the issues that George Romero faces. They have to be treated like refugees with living accommodations. Some go back to live with their families, some do not, and we see the reasons why. On the whole it is more the living who have unfinished business with the dead.

This could have been a zombie film with intelligence instead of horror. It very nearly is. Co-writer and director Robin Campillo does not handle the film as well as it might have been. Part of his point is that the dead are slow and a little dazed, but in this film the living also become slow and a little dazed.

This leads to slow and introspective conversations between the living and the dead punctuated with meaningful stares and spoken in disjoint four-word phrases with long pauses. (That does make the subtitles easier to read.) The film then takes on a lethargic pacing and tone. In the final reel the pace picks up a little, but also betrays the spirit of the film to that point, much in the way Tod Browning's FREAKS did.

Sidenote: There seem to be obvious problems with the film. When we first see the dead they are marching from their graves in a mass exodus, wearing casual clothing like sun dresses. Are people really buried this way in France? I doubt it. For that matter many of these people would have long since decomposed.

This has to be seen as a pure fantasy with most logic questions delegated to a willing suspension of disbelief. The mechanism is not as important as what is done with the ideas. This film is more an interesting failure than great use of a very different idea.

Mark R. Leeper

Copyright 2004 Mark R. Leeper

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