The Returned

  • Title: Les Revenants (The Returned) // Original
  • Country of Origin: France
  • Genre: Sci-Fi/ Horror Drama
  • Released: 26 November 2012
  • No. of seasons: 2
  • No. of episodes 16
  • Creator: Fabrice Gobert (France)
  • Starring: Anne Consigny (France), Frédéric Pierrot (France), Clotilde Hesme (France)
  • Available on: Netflix, Amazon Video, Google Play, iTunes, YouTube
  • Recommendation by: Caroline Rysenga

As someone who grew up watching TV series like The X-Files, The Twilight Zone, and Twin Peaks, the recent wave of horror TV shows has been quite the treat. I will admit, I tend to lean towards more science fiction horror rather than gore (thank you, weak stomach), so zombie films/series have never been a big interest of mine. I was skeptical when first learning about the “French zombie-drama” TV series, Les Revenants, but was relieved to find out it would’ve better been labeled as a sci-fi horror drama.

Les Revenants (The Returned) is about several deceased residents of a small village in the mountains of France who reappear one day with no recollection of their deaths. They are all different ages, all from different decades, and all passed away in different ways, yet they all return at the same time. Unlike other television zombies out there, these “revenants” look just as they did before they died. The series follows their integration back into the community, as well as other strange happenings in the town.

The series deals with the subject of death and grief, but without overwhelming the viewer. The story of these characters is both terrible and wonderful, and left me feeling quite conflicted. A grief-stricken person may wish for their loved ones to return home, but what would they feel if that wish actually became reality? Since all the living family members are still residents of the village, they are forced to come to terms with these emotions, and answer questions they never thought they’d be faced with.

The dreamy, unsettling tone of this series was majorly due to the brilliantly composed soundtrack by post rock band, Mogwai. The score captures the mood of what the characters are experiencing so well, and is such a deserving addition to the imagery. It also reminds us of its horror roots, since every great horror movie needs an equally great rock soundtrack. I think the more experimental, post rock sound made much more sense for this story though, and even though I may be biased as an old fan, I’m glad they chose Mogwai for this project.

The imagery of Les Revenants can only be described as dreadfully beautiful. The misty roads, elegantly winding around the sleepy town. A black, bottomless lake with dark mountains looming in the background- I loved how every shot seemed entirely intentional and just, beautiful.

Les Revenants is the kind of show that will imperceptibly rope you in, then challenge you with its “slow-burn” pace. It’s not the type of show that builds you up and then lets you off easy. Instead, each episode thickens the already complicated, and gripping plot. My patience was exercised a lot during this show, but the excruciating wait for answers makes it all the better.

Les Revenants is entirely in French, but subtitles are available on Netflix, and certainly do not take away from the series. If subtitles aren’t cutting it, there is an American version of the series entirely in English, also available on Netflix. I’ve watched both, and although the English version is “shot-for-shot”, it lacks much of the defining cinematography that is found in the French version. I highly recommend watching the French version first, and who knows, you may decide to start learning French!