What's the Definition of a Zombie? by Gord Lacey (All reviews)
In The Returned, a small community in the idyllic French Alps is thrown into shock and confusion when loved ones who have been dead for years inexplicably return to their homes. With no awareness of their own deaths, the returned attempt to reintegrate with their families and past lovers. But chilling events begin to occur as the town grapples with this miraculous and sinister new reality.
Winner of the International Emmy for Best Drama, The Returned (Les Revenants), is an unprecedented worldwide smash hit series and the highest rated Canal+ drama in history in its native France. "Deep, mysterious, and remarkable" (Los Angeles Times), gorgeously photographed, and featuring a stunningly evocative score by Scottish post-rock band Mogwai, The Returned synthesizes elements of classic mystery series like Twin Peaks and Lost with an original and profound spin on the walking dead, resulting in a one-of-a-kind new television sensation.
I heard about this show last year when one of our regular users asked me to add it to the site. Normally I just add a show and move on, but I read a little bit about the show as I was adding it (maybe because it was foreign, I don't know), and I became intrigued, and was determined to track down a copy to watch (I had no idea this would be released here). I was hooked from the first episode.
It's a show about dead people that come back to life one day. They aren't zombies drooling on themselves while looking to eat human flesh (braaaaaain); they don't know they're dead, and they try to return to live their lives, confused by what they return to. This isn't a Walking Dead zombie show, it's much, much more. I'd classify it as a drama/mystery series, and had more to do with Twin Peaks than The Walking Dead. Why have these people returned?
Music Box Films has released this on DVD and Blu-ray, and all 8 episodes from the first season are on this 2-disc set.
Disc 1 (3:36:21)
Disc 2 (3:41:09)
Serge & Toni (56:55)
The Horde (55:16)
This show looks excellent on Blu-ray, and the style of the show definitely lends itself to viewing in HD. It has a very beautiful style to it, with nice scenic shots of the town the show takes place in. Black levels are good, which is important because there are a number of night shots in each episode, and the show has an overall blue tint to it, which adds to the "look" of the show. The show was shot in HD (not film), and there's just a little bit of noise in some of the scenes. There's a "play all" on both discs, as well as a chapter set after the opening of each episode.
Being a French show, it should be no surprise that the audio track is French (Dolby Digital 5.1); there are English subtitles, don't worry. The track is really good, with some nice use of the rear speakers for ambient sounds. The subtitles are excellent; well-timed, and without errors that I noticed. The highlight of the audio experience on this show is definitely the soundtrack provided by Scottish band Mogwai (I loved it so much I bought the soundtrack). There's also a French Stereo track on the release.
Booklet (18 pages)
Though there aren't any on-disc bonus features on the set, it comes with a really nice booklet that contains an introduction by producer Caroline Benjo, an essay from Scott Tobias (editor of The Dissolve), and a Q&A with writer/director Fabrice Gobert. Since the essay contains information on the plot of the series, I'd suggest reading it after watching the episodes if you want to avoid spoilers.
My fascination with this series began a few minutes into the first episode, and I certainly enjoyed re-watching the episodes on this Blu-ray set. I love the direction in every episode; the nice wide establishing shots of the town, and the framing of characters. I love the haunting music that Mogwai provides. I love not knowing exactly what's going on; being lost in the series, while slowly piecing together bits and pieces and forming my own conclusions. I love that it's spooky, without being scary. I hate that many won't give this show a chance because it's from France, and it's not English that's spoken.
I think Music Box Films did a great job with this set. I didn't expect any bonus material (there rarely is on imported shows), but the booklet was really nice. I'm annoyed that they used a DVD-height custom case for the set instead of going with one that was Blu-ray sized. It's likely to save money on the booklet (print one for 2 different sets), and because it's a cardboard case with trays (maybe they don't have a BD version of it?).
If the concept of this show intrigues you, please give it a shot. It's a wonderful series that'll be overlooked by many because it's subtitled. The second season is going ahead, and the US is going to remake it (no surprise there), but you should definitely get in at the ground floor for this one.