Fresh off the critical acclaim of The Worst Person In The World, the leading duo of the film Renate Reinsve and Anders Danielson Lie reunite for something a little more peculiar. While their prior film together was quite unique, their follow up, Handling The Undead, is unlike anything I've ever seen before. Uniquely and profoundly heartbreaking, while also making your skin crawl, this film is a genre blend of terror and emotion.
Examining three different families, Handling the Undead examines what would happen if one day your deceased loved ones woke up. Anna (Reinsve), along with her father Mahler (Bjørn Sundquist), finds her son (Mahler's grandson) awake in his casket. Mahler quickly digs him back up and brings him back home. David (Anderson Lie) receives a call that his wife Eva (Bahar Pars) has been in an accident and has died. But when he arrives at the hospital, she wakes up. Lastly, Tora (Bente Børsum) an elderly woman has just buried her beloved Elisabet (Olga Damani) only to find her standing in her kitchen later that night.
Masquerading behind the horror design of a zombie film, director Thea Hvistendahl pieces together an incredibly profound portrait of grief and loss. Each family examined in their various vignettes are in different stages of the grieving process. Anna's son Elias has been dead for an uncertain amount of time but Anna is clearly still grieving and possibly even depressive. Mahler is trying to help her through her process but he's obviously hurting just the same. On the other hand, Tora is fresh out of a funeral and may have not even begun to grieve. We might be able to interpret a little more of a mature sense of loss due to her age, but we can't presume nor can we deny that she's hurting over the loss of Elisabet. Lastly, David hasn't even processed the loss of Eva before she returns. The same goes for their young children Kian (Kian Hansen) and Flora (Inesa Dauksta) who merely hear that their mother died, and woke up.
The slow burn writing of Let The Right One In (the more American version being Let Me In) writer John Ajvide Lindqvist is on full display. Casual buildup for each family is done through reserved dialogue, even silence at times, and forcing the audience to really think about what each person is feeling. Emotional perception is the heart of the film, so when these loved family members return the shock, or physical reaction is that much more jarring. I was on the edge of my seat, not only in suspense but ready to run the fuck home scared shitless when Mahler has Elias' zombie body in Anna's home as she returns. The suspense and ambience provoke the feeling of a horror film when in reality we're watching a mother be reunited with her son. Complex and thought provoking, Handling the Undead is full of these moments that push you further into discomfort, while challenging your idea of processing loss.
Each family's journey through these losses is astonishing to watch, and is a real credit to Lindqvist's writing. Putting the stages of grief on a visual medium, combined with zombies is a real triumph in Handling the Undead. Finding different ways for these grieving people to come to the conclusion that their loved one is not the same person is an emotional rollercoaster. The pacing can test your patience at times, but that's Lindqvist's style and I think it works quite well.
Handling the Undead also has some stupendous technical work, ushering in more uneasiness. Director of photography Pål Ulvik Rokseth utilizes slow, smooth shots that linger just a tad too long, throwing an unsettling pace to the film. Not to mention SFX Makeup designer Morten Jacobsen constructs some terrifying zombies that look and feel real.
An intense film, with a slower pace, deserves an intense beer to match it. Normally I would suggest something darker to match the tone of the film, but with the drawn out feel to it I think a strong double IPA is something that can elevate the ambience. Squatters Craft Beers provides the perfect choice here with their Hop Rising double IPA! Intensely hoppy, and packing a punch, the Hop Rising is everything you could want if you love a great hoppy flavor. With a rather meager 72 IBUs, the bitterness is quite mild. Allowing a malty flavor to come in to start, and a dank hop forward finish to bring it home.