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Starring: Renate Reinsve, Bjon Sundquist, Benete Borsum, Andres Danielsen Iie

Director(s): Thea Hvistendahl


Reuniting Renate Reinsve and Anders Danielsen Lie (The Worst Person in the World, 2022 Sundance Film Festival), Handling the Undead is a visually expansive experience, full of arresting images and subtle performances that collapse the space between the living and the dead. Director Thea Hvistendahl’s steady directorial hand leaves her characters room to breathe, to mediate the moral gray area, letting the minutiae of grief lead them as they feel their way through an extraordinary circumstance. Hvistendahl’s interpretation of Lindqvist’s novel addresses daunting questions about the body, the soul, loss, and moving on, pushing viewers to get to the root of reanimation: What would you do, and how would you feel, if someone you loved returned?

Written By Darren Zakus

Rating: 1.5 out of 5

Handling the Undead is itself as dead as the zombies within the film with a tediously slow loving screenplay that is incredibly uneventful, leaving the film as lifeless as the undead within it despite strong production elements to create the atmosphere of the story.

There is no doubt a haunting quality about Handling the Undead and that instantly washes over viewers. The cinematography is full of darkness, void of any vibrant colour, creating a bleak world for the story to unfold in. The sound design of the film is impressive, allowing the majority of the story to carry out in a calm silence which heightens any noise. It allows the audience to jump slightly at any loud sound, the crunch of footsteps walking up behind one of our characters, or the raspy breathing sound of any of the characters that are about to become one of the undead. Helping to bring to life the undead is impressive makeup design, making the undead a sickly pale white, their infected bites look dead, and their eyes void of any life. It’s too bad the narrative can’t measure up to the film’s production value.

The film’s story follows several individuals across Oslo on one hot summer day as the dead begin to rise. For a zombie film, there are very few moments of actual zombie madness. Instead, the screenplay is very pensive, more focused on the living character’s grief of having just lost their loved ones, and preventing the undead from awakening from their brief slumber until the film’s final act. It results in the film being very poorly paced, moving slower than the undead themselves until the film’s final fifteen minutes. There are two decent scenes at the film’s conclusion that finally deliver on the zombie premise, but they are far too late in the game to make this film a true zombie film. Furthermore, with the film being focused on numerous storylines, we don’t spend enough time with any individual storyline or its characters. Not even the talent of Renate Reinsve and Anders Danielsen Lie, who both electrified the screen together in The Worst Person in the World, are able to invest the audience in their two storylines, making the audience wish this film would be brought back to life like the undead characters within it. Even with the film being based on a novel that itself was warranted for being adapted into a film, there are no emotional stakes to draw the audience into the story beyond the muddled central themes of the relationship between parents and children and any sort of terrifying moments to justify the film’s horror classification.

Not every zombie movie has to be as terrifying or eventful as 28 Days Later or Dawn of the Dead, but there is an expectation of consistent chills and some solid scares throughout the film. While there is no question that the sound design, cinematography and visuals help to create an unsettling world for Handling the Undead to play out within, the film’s screenplay fails to capture a captivating narrative or intriguing themes to hold the audience’s attention over the duration of the film’s ninety seven minute run time.

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