Handling the Undead (2024) – Movie Review – Flickering Myth

Handling the Undead (2024) – Movie Review – Flickering Myth

Handling the Undead, 2024.

Written and Directed by Thea Hvistendahl.
Starring Renate Reinsve, Anders Danielsen Lie, Bjørn Sundquist, Bahar Pars, Jan Hrynkiewicz, Dennis Østby Ruud, Bente Børsum, Olga Damani, Inesa Dauksta, and Kian Hansen.


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?

Simultaneously one of the more clever yet uneventful zombie films in recent memory, writer/director Thea Hvistendahl’s Handling the Undead (adapting the novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist) has less of a plot and more of a refreshing spin on a familiar concept that will either strike an emotional chord or make one feel as bored as a zombie without anyone to munch on.

Following the lives of three separate families (which means that this is only a reunion of The Worst Person in the World leads Renate Reinsve and Anders Danielsen Lie in casting only, but don’t be disappointed in that as they both still give exceptional restrained performances) in Oslo, the eerie horror-adjacent drama establishes the lives of these characters (many of them without names), all of them grieving the loss of a loved one whether it be a child or significant other.

There is undeniably more time spent than necessary doing this (even with sharp shock compositions from cinematographer Pål Ulvik Rokseth, the camera doesn’t need to linger on characters for so long doing mundane tasks long after the point has been made), but those who don’t emotionally check out will find their patience rewarded, as the unfolding phenomena of unexplainable power outages followed up by the dead reanimated does build to some cumulatively compelling sequences.

Again, this is not a film designed to be scary (although there are some truly unsettling portrayals of reanimated corpses and excellent dirty makeup effects), but more so, three separate tales of grieving characters granted an unorthodox opportunity at finding closure. It’s also wise that the dynamics of each relationship are different, ranging from a grandfather and his daughter grieving a child, an elderly gay woman mourning her partner, and a family man with two children preparing for his son’s birthday who finds his life upended by a catastrophic tragedy occurring to his wife. 

Handling the Undead prefers to soak itself in the startling realization that a loved one has returned to life. They are not traditional zombies per se yet (although it is worth pointing out that this is a world aware of zombies as a concept, as evident by the on-the-nose, cheap-looking video games teenagers play in a choice that probably would have been better off cut from the film), allowing the living ample time to bask in what is happening and what they are observing. In some cases, it’s as simple as having a few more peaceful days together; in others, things unexpectedly turn dark and violent, which is something that might sound obvious but also catches one off guard, considering the mood here.

Keeping one at a distance, Thea Hvistendahl is primarily concerned with this expressionistic tone, disregarding the notion of building characters altogether. With that said, the ensemble here is terrific at drawing one into their emotions and feelings. Handling the Undead is a sleight genre exercise without much plot, but there is plentiful ominous, atmospheric dread lifting up the surface-level drama. Taken as a moving, affecting look at grief and closure and less about the living and dead themselves, this is an engaging piece for those willing to get on its glacially-paced wavelength.

Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★

Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at [email protected]


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