Handling the Undead Review // Feel Your Feels

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Grief is a powerful thing that’s hard to put into words. It hits everyone differently, and there is no road map to “successfully” navigate it. Many people know firsthand it’s not a linear process and that we don’t always make the best decisions when this emotion is at its rawest. The Norwegian film adaption of John Ajvide Lindqvist’s novel Handling the Undead is very aware of this. This is why Thea Hvistendahl’s movie hits a different nerve than most viewers might expect from this “zombie” entry. 

Handling the Undead follows three families who are taken aback when their loved ones return from the dead one summer. They try to reconnect with their reanimated loved ones even though something seems off. What seems like a miracle at first may be their undoing. 

From a Technical Standpoint

This movie will do well with people who feel their feelings. It seems designed to hit you in the tear ducts and never let up. Most people have outlived at least a few loved ones, so Handling the Undead easily accesses those unhealed parts of our psyches. Because grief takes many forms and is a neverending journey, I predict a lot of crying while watching this movie. It also happens to be a well-made movie. Although, the pacing is my new villain origin story, and too many scenes ran way too long. However, I might also be dead inside, so Handling the Undead’s milage will probably go further with others. 

One of the things I found odd about the film is that while it’s pulling heartstrings, it approaches its subjects clinically. This is confusing because it relies heavily on emotional manipulation. This causes Handling the Undead to feel like a house that hasn’t been lived in, like a model home on display without a soul. You can admire the architecture, you can see where you’d put things, but at the end of this trip, it’s still empty. The best example is when there is a prolonged animal death. We see it coming as the audience. We know why it’s happening from a story standpoint. Yet, it didn’t elicit anything from me. Again, maybe I’m just dead inside. Or, maybe it’s because the movie is seemingly lumbering along with the newly returned dead. You can be the judge when you check it out.

You Know Where This Is Going 

Most of us have seen our share of cinema focused on the undead, and we all know it has to end badly. However, part of agreeing to be in the audience for these films is to see how the story gets there. Handling the Undead feels like it taps the grief board once more and then gives a restrained climax. While I don’t think every movie needs buckets of blood and massive amounts of violence, it would’ve been nice to see something that would prevent the entire film from being a flatline. I’ve sat with this movie for a few days and have been trying to figure out what ingredient is missing in this recipe. It feels like I sat down at my favorite restaurant, ordered my favorite meal, and then discovered a new chef was in the kitchen. It’s familiar, but it’s not quite right.

Anywho, I’m curious to see how others respond to Handling the Undead. Perhaps fans of John Ajvide Lindqvist’s other popular novel, which was also turned into a film, Let the Right One In, will find some similarities that will help pull them in. I’m also excited to see what’s next for director and co-screenwriter Thea Hvistendahl. This is her first feature, and while it didn’t hit me as hard as some of my friends who reviewed it, I’m curious to see what she would do with something with a bit more bite.

Handling the Undead is currently available on VOD.

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