The Returned: French TV Show That Breathes New Life Into Zombies

It's pretty clear zombies have been revelling in something of a purple patch in recent years. At least in a screen sense, the 21st century has been pretty good to The Undead.

We've had rubbery zombies, comedy zombies, Bollywood zombies, splatterfest zombies and in BBC3's In The Flesh, even misunderstood zombies.

With Walking Dead Series 4 filming right now, and Brad Pitt's imminent attempt to save the planet from the zombie hordes in popcorn fest World War Z, you'd be forgiven for thinking the genre was still in good health.

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Trouble is, there's only so far filmmakers can stretch it before the whole groaning and staggering and arms outstretched thing becomes a bit of a yawn. Someone's going to get bitten and hide it from the rest, someone's going to stomp of in a huff and be torn limb from limb, and someone's going to have to shoot their zombie mum between the eyes,. We get it. Good the first time, but what else is on?

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But before the zombie genre inevitably flatlines, there could just be time for a little mouth to mouth. In what might prove a very successful exercise in genre extension, we give you the European arthouse zombie.

Channel 4's Sunday night Homeland slot is about to be filled with 8-part Canal+ drama Les Revenants (The Returned) which hits this Sunday (June 9) against a fanfare of stellar ratings and critical acclaim back in France.

These Gallic zombies are not your typical dim-witted groaners with bad skin and even worse dress sense. They're veritably rosy-cheeked with not a visible jawbone or protruding eye socket in sight.

Set in a small Alpine village still coming to terms with a school coach crash four years earlier, let's just say some unexpected visitors start popping back on the scene, acting like they've never been away. It poses the uncomfortable idea of whether your happiness at the return of a long dead relative might be tempered a little by the fact that they are, you know, dead.

Convincing performances, a brilliantly sinister soundtrack from Scottish band Mogwai, and beautifully framed, almost photographic, cinematography make The Returned a pretty strong reason to stay in on Sundays for the next 2 months. This is the zombie genre played as ghost story and it feels genuinely fresh. In a manner of speaking.

What do you think?

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