Handling the Undead

Handling the Undead
Despite the involvement of writer John Ajvide Lindqvist, this film sadly doesn’t do to zombie films what Let the Right One In did for vampires.

Handling the Undead

Release Date: May 31, 2024
Runtime: 01:37
On a hot summer day in Oslo, the dead mysteriously awaken, and three families are thrown into chaos when their deceased loved ones come back to them. Who are they, and what do they want?

Table of Contents

A freak electromagnetic pulse in Oslo results in the recently deceased awakening, affecting three families in . On a dreary summer's day in Oslo, a freak electromagnetic event passes through the city causing massive migraines in the living and causing the bodies of the recently deceased to awaken. This includes the son of grieving mother Anna (), who is dug up by his grandfather Mahler (). Elsewhere, Eva () wakes up after a fatal car wreck, confusing her boyfriend David () and their children Flora () and Kian (). Finally, the elderly Elisabet () leaves her coffin and wanders home to her partner Tora ().

Handling the Undead Synopsis

Handling the Undead is the debut feature film from Norwegian filmmaker Thea Hvistendahl, based on the novel of the same name by John Ajvide Lindqvist (Let the Right One In, Border), who also co-wrote the script with Hvistendahl. The story is a more dramatic take on the typical zombie premise, showing the aftermath of a freak electromagnetic pulse that causes the recently deceased to awaken. The plot of Handling the Undead moves back and forth between three concurrent narratives.

Arguably the central plot of the film stars Renate Reinsve (The Worst Person in the World) as Anna, a depressed and grieving mother, who is shocked to discover her head son is back among the living. The second most prominent narrative features Anders Danielsen Lie (Personal Shopper, Bergman Island) as David, who doesn't have time to process the death of his girlfriend Eva before she suddenly awakens. Finally, an elderly lesbian couple finds themselves reunited, even though the reanimated Elisabet isn't quite the same.

My Thoughts on Handling the Undead

Despite a plot involving reanimated corpses, Handling the Undead is a film that is best described as a horror-adjacent drama, which in some ways can be described as the calm before the storm of an eventual zombie apocalypse. Indeed, Handling the Undead is arguably one of the slowest-paced zombie films known to man. It is only towards the end of the film's 97-minute running time that the negative aspects of the dead awakening come to light.

The most prominent of these negative aspects also make for the film's most upsetting scene. It's in this moment when a pet bunny rabbit is crushed to death while it struggles and squeaks. The rabbit was only introduced to the plot a scene prior and it is one of the most gratuitous instances of introducing a cute animal to a film, only to kill it immediately. Hence, I'm not too concerned about spoiling this moment, since I want to include it in this review to warn any animal lovers considering watching the film.

Handling the Undead is being sold on the involvement of writer John Ajvide Lindqvist, who wrote both the source novel and screenplay for 2008's Let the Right One In, arguably one of the best vampire stories of the past two decades, as well as writing the short story that was the basic for the 2018 film Border. Sadly, I have to say that Handling the Undead doesn't end up doing the same for zombie films that Let the Right One In did for vampires. The plot of the film is way too slow and the few moments of zombie horror within the film are way too upsetting to enjoy.

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Trailer for Handling the Undead

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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.