Handling the Undead

The iconic “crossing the streams” scenario, originally pitched by Ghostbusters, has served to be an effective comparison when describing debacles.  Such is the case for another supernatural film, Handling the Undead.  Norwegian filmmaker Thea Hvistendahl essentially”crosses the streams” by running a metaphorical subtext with more literal examples.  Hvistendahl aims for nuance, but misses and creates heavy-handed deliveries and drawn out results.

While I’m not qualified to grade how well the movie adapts John Ajvide Lindqvist’s novel of the same name, compared to his previous screenwriting efforts (Let the Right One In, Border), Lindqvist’s screenplay (which they wrote with the director) feels inconsequential;  accidentally akin to the emotionally vacant cast of characters in the movie.  The story follows several grieving people (including The Worst Person in the World’s Renate Reinsve) as they adjust to heartbreaking changes after someone they love has died.  These initial sequences, while extremely protracted, frame the tone well.  The different stages of isolation are portrayed in claustrophobic ways despite how much emptiness surrounds the scene.  Hvistendahl’s fly-on-the-wall storytelling is so compelling, it’s almost voyeuristic.

After a supernatural event awakens the dead, some stark cinematography and creepy make-up effects give the audience a fitting sense of unease.  Even the mourning people aren’t entirely sure that these unexplained appearance are going to fill their voids.  Unfortunately, this is where Handling the Undead levels off; doubling down on its painstakingly slow pace and refusing to challenge itself any further.  While a movie usually earns props for maintaining its consistency, the quiet loneliness of Handling the Undead makes for one of the most boring movies in recent memory.


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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie

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