Handling the Undead

Handling the Undead
Handling the Undead
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Thea Hvistendahl, the director of this movie wanted to explore how grief-stricken people would react if they were reunited with their loved ones who had turned into zombies. It is a brilliant idea for a psychological horror film in a genre that’s often filled with cliches, but it’s done very subtly and well in Hvistendahl’s new film, Handling the Undead. The Norwegian horror mystery is most horrifyingly about what the living dead can do, as such, this filmmaker gently guides us through 90 minutes of little talk but much curiosity.

These three main characters’ efforts to come to grips with something so unimaginable make for interesting viewing. What makes it really special though is how well Hvistendahl holds the audience’s attention while purposely keeping everything at just below boiling point. Handling the Undead does not contain any bloody kills, tons of jump scares or zombies feasting on humans as portrayed in many other movies. In fact, it’s far superior and often more intelligent than most others.

Handling the Undead premiered at Sundance World Dramatic where it created an instant buzz. However, cinephiles must have been interested to know that John Ajvide Lindquist wrote both the book and screenplay for this movie. He also famously wrote Let the Right One In which was later adapted into a highly successful Swedish movie after its release in 2008 and praised by critics as one of the best vampire films ever made. The Nun (2018), Alien: Covenant (2017) actor Demián Bichir starred in Showtime series in 2022.

The pace and manner of Handling the Undead reminds one of Let the Right One In – slow yet powerful. It is hot muggy day in Oslo summer; today Anna (Reinsve), Mahler (Sundquist) enters his simple apartment block where he eventually heads down to work with hardly acknowledging his daughter inside. Both are carrying something heavy, with Anna’s weighty burden unveiled as the film progresses and we learn that she is mourning her little boy Elias. Elsewhere, Tora (Børsum) gives her final farewell to her partner Elisabet (Damani) before the body is wheeled into the back of a parlour. The third leg of this triangle represents a happy family. David and Eva have had a wonderful life with their kids but all that is about to end (Lie and Pars).

But why some of the dead are coming back to life is still a mystery. The swarming birds give an ominous feeling. Car alarms start ringing. Electrical power outages suggest, but it has very little to do with the muggy summer day from the audience’s point of view. After that, through car accident that leaves Eva on life support, things change in the film.

We therefore fly to Mahler who senses this and goes ahead to exhume his grandson’s grave. Anyway, Elias is alive/undead and very serene. Tora wakes up one night only to find Elisabet walking like a zombie around their apartment. Even if Eva comes back from being on life support, she is in a similar condition as well – zombified. On one hand, these reawakenings stun everyone involved while there is something soothing about the return of these loved ones.. But ultimately this charm fades so quickly.

Even Anna could not fully grasp what was going on yet she had intended to commit suicide because of her depression state before all this happened. She motherly cuddles her son when Elias returns though nobody is there. However, Tora washes and clothes Elisbet; what for? Empty behind those eyes. Yet? With time, the film keeps peeling off more layers . They say zombies are stoic beings but then again maybe they can be expressive too or you never know when they turn on a switch . When Eva’s family visits her at the hospital for her son’s birthday celebration however she ends up with another newborn pet – a rabbit. That doesn’t go well.

These elements are masterfully handled by Director Thea Hvistendahl. It becomes more meditative outing into Handling The Undead about dealing with unfathomable and our place in death itself probably.Cinematographer Pål Ulvik Rokseth has dulled tones that bring out precisely how solemn this material should be. Production designer Linda Janson leans into all shades of grays, dead blues, browns, and blacks. Composer Peter Raeburn starts off with low notes that get softer until the final 10 minutes.

The film perfectly builds up to its true awakening; that even though these loved ones’ corpses are living again, life with them might be lethal now. Stick around this intriguing venture. Let it seep under your flesh. It is reminiscent of M.Night Shyamalan’s movies as some of the nuances in the film are similar; the essence lies in imagining what the true terror really is and how or whether it will manifest.

In summary, just like A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night by Ana Lily Amirpour, Melancholia and immaculate this movie is a great piece of art it has a lot to say about those things which we cannot comprehend. And everything else in between is deep, existential, and haunting..

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