Superior Achievement in Dark Film: They Came Back
Unlike modern zombie films, in which the undead characters wish to digest or otherwise harm the human characters, the 70 million people who return from the dead in They Came Back want simply to re-integrate themselves into society. The recent dead (within the decade) just come back. They want their lives back. This French zombie film, unlike so many others, deals not with the coming apocalypse, but with the crisis of living.
When the dead begin to overwhelm this average town, the questions and challenges begin. What do we do with them? Do they get their jobs back? What about pensions? Health benefits? What if families don’t want their deceased back? Lurking underneath these seemingly mundane issues is the darker, more sinister question. What if they are no longer our loved ones? Grief is one of the most intense and horrific emotions that humans experience. What would you overlook if the love of your life returned? Memory lapses, strange behavior at night, blank stares, irrational thought patterns? How far is too far when you love someone?
They Came Back is a fascinating discussion on a number of philosophical themes. There is the exploration of the Christian concept of the afterlife. The newly dead have returned to Earth. This should be good right? The Bible give us the example of Lazarus and the afterlife. Our loved ones have risen as the Bible tells us they will. Shouldn’t Christians be thrilled? The reaction however is mixed at best. There is a brilliant scene where shelter workers hand a mother her infant. Instead of the expected reaction of motherly love, the woman is utterly horrified. There is no spark of life, no human essence. Scientists conclude the dead can “mimic human speech and behavior.” They are not really human. What are they? In French, the title is The Revenants, or living dead. There is no connection to the human self in the present. They only know what they once were. The film raises the question of what it means to be human. Are these dead in the afterlife or limbo? What are they exactly? The ending is very ambiguous on the concept of eternity. They cannot exist with living, but where do they go? They have no emotional connection to their lives either past or present. Is living simply breathing? Walking around? A physical self? How much of our humanity centers on emotion, work, and connections with people and the world around us?
A wonderful exploration of something far greater than just the walking dead.