Since the first time I heard the story of Lazarus rising from the dead, I have been fascinated by the idea of, for want of a better phrase, the living dead. Did Lazarus' family treat him differently upon his return? Did he act differently than before he "died"? Was he a social pariah? Did the children of his village fear him like the Bogey Man? Was there rejoicing at his return? I always thought one thing was certain: life after death could not have been as before. Could it? The Returned explores some of those questions.

 

The newly resurrected have been called the "walking dead", the living dead, zombies, walkers, biters, ghouls, or even Frankenstein's monster, but, for me, the bottom line is this: zombies are fascinating. I've seen old films from 30's, 40's, and 50's showing"zombies" created from voodoo or magic spells. But George Romero's Night of the Living Dead marked the era of a new type of "zombie" if you will - a creature risen from the dead, slow-moving, craving flesh of the living, but one who also used to be a mother, a father, brother, sister. They used to be just like you or me. They were one of "us" and now they are "other." This film really brought home to me how the abyss really is scary place teeming with monsters, and sometimes the "monsters" are us. Of course, it's not a surprise that the post-apocalyptic series, The Walking Dead, is one of my favorite TV shows. Ever. So a new take on an old favorite is always welcome.

 

"The Returned" (Les Revenants) 8-episode marathon aired on the Sundance Channel during Christmas holidays, and due to lots of holiday drama, I missed it. But my sister (Bless her heart!) watched it and told me about it. After checking and checking in the vain hope of a repeat marathon, I gave up and ended up purchasing the first season through Amazon Instant Video. It was very much worth the (almost) $16 of my mad money and approximately 8 hours of my time.

 

First, a word of warning: there are English subtitles. If you find this distracting or just simply don't care for it, this series may not work as well for you as it did for me. But, please don't dismiss it just for that because it really is tremendously good. I will say this series demands all of your attention, but I happily gave it because I was hooked like the proverbial fish from the first episode.

 

Each of the eight episodes titles' are named for an inhabitant of this remote Alpine village. For example, the premiere episode is "Camille" and introduces the first of these returning dead, a fifteen-year old teenager killed in a bus accident four years ago. Her story as well as the other Revenants like Mrs. Costa, Simon, Victor, and Serge unfold slowly and beautifully. The effects of grief and loss on the loved ones left behind is told with compassion and real understanding. The tone and visuals are remarkably creepy, as well as some of the characters like "Victor" and Serge. I think season 2 is expected to air sometime this year on the Sundance channel. I know I'll be front and center when it airs.