The Reel Review

C+

When a mysterious electromagnetic surge throughout Oslo results in the reanimation of the recently deceased, three families are forced to confront their grief once again as they gradually realize that their newly undead loved ones are not the same people that they were before dying. The Worst Person in the World‘s Renate Reinsve and Anders Danielsen Lie star in this Norwegian horror mystery based on the 2005 novel from author John Ajvide Lindqvist (Let the Right One In).

Renate Reinsve in Handling the Undead

Pet Sematary meets the arthouse crowd in this dour, slow-moving film in which the zombies are only partially animated and the living seem almost dead from suffocating sadness. Working from a screenplay she wrote with the book’s author, director Thea Hvistendahl explores how grief leads the living into doing the selfish and irrational – in particular, Reinsve’s character taking care of her hollow-eyed, already-rotting young son, dug up by his grandfather in an attempt to pull her out of her suicidal depression. Daniel Anderssen Lie is the father of another family dealing with their recently reanimated matriarch after a deadly car accident. Another involves an elderly woman who just attended her longtime partner’s funeral only to discover her at home in her kitchen. Pathos is pervasive throughout Handling the Undead.

Bahar Pars in Handling the Undead

The film’s most horrific moment involves a hard-to-watch act of animal cruelty, which alone should turn off many potential viewers. An excellent score and dim cinematography effectively capture the solemn tone, but despite its solid production, this soulful exploration of loss and grief is a lethargic, patience-testing experience similar to slowly watching a block of ice melt.

REEL FACTS

Handling the Undead was trapped in development limbo when the production company that John Ajvide Lindqvist signed his rights tried to sell them to an American company rather than making the film themselves. Once the rights reverted back to Lindqvist he sold them to Einar Film.

Handling the Undead won a prize for its score and was nominated for the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival.

• Although the film was set in Oslo, Norway, the setting for the 2005 novel is Stockholm, Sweden.

 

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