They Came Back (2004) - Rotten Tomatoes

They Came Back (2004)

They Came Back




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

The recently dead return to life in They Came Back, but they are surprisingly uninterested in feasting on the living. Many of them are, naturally enough, elderly, and they seem content merely to go back to their former lives, but their return causes a myriad of complications. Robin Campillo, making his feature directorial debut, co-wrote the script to Laurent Cantet's Time Out, and his "zombie" movie quietly examines the individual and societal impact the dead have on the small French city -- just one of many similarly afflicted throughout the world -- to which they return. Isham (Djemel Barek) and Véronique (Marie Matheron) have their trepidations, but they're generally happy, at first, to see their little boy Sylvain (Saady Delas), and the town's elderly mayor (Victor Garrivier) welcomes home his wife, Martha (Catherine Samie). But Rachel (Géraldine Pailhas of 5x2), a government health official, cannot bring herself to visit her newly returned husband, Mathieu (Jonathan Zaccaï of Seaside), at the ad-hoc shelter where the government houses the "zombies" like refugees. Eventually, she relents, and Mathieu returns home, but the living find that their loved ones are not exactly as they remember them. Studies soon reveal that the dead suffer from a form of aphasia. They cannot create new memories, and they cannot be trusted to perform any but the most menial tasks. Perhaps sensing the discomfort they cause the living, the dead gather together at night, and seem to be formulating some kind of secret plan. They Came Back was selected by the Museum of Modern Art and the Film Society of Lincoln Center for inclusion in the 2005 edition of New Directors/New Films.more
Rating: Unrated
Genre: Drama, Action & Adventure, Horror, Art House & International, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Directed By:
Written By: Robin Campillo, Brigitte Tijou
In Theaters:
On DVD: Jun 21, 2005
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Marie Matheron
as Veronique
Saady Delas
as Sylvain
Hélène Alexandridis
as La fille du maire
Serge Biavan
as Le representant mede...
Francois Clavier
as Le representant du p...
Alain Guillo
as Le directeur de Math...
Guy Anderson [Herber...
as Le revenant au blous...
Dan Herzberg
as Le soldat
Jean-Luc Mimault
as Le gardien de nuit
Catherine Salvini
as La psychologue
Philippe Suner
as Representative
Gerard Watkins
as Le fils du maire
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News & Interviews for They Came Back

Critic Reviews for They Came Back

All Critics (11) | Top Critics (1)

Full Review… | February 9, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

A contemplative off-beat drama taking a very original look at how society copes with death.

Full Review… | July 16, 2013
The List

Occupying a crepuscular space between life and death, wakefulness and sleep, arthouse and genre, Campillo's astonishing debut is as unnervingly oneiric as it is oddly moving.

Full Review… | July 15, 2013

[Director Robin Campillo's] camera seems to deliberately circle around death, examining it from every angle.

Full Review… | October 19, 2007
Projection Booth

Leave it to the French to take all the fun out of a Zombie flick, overly intellectualizing even the most base of cinema forms.

Full Review… | June 21, 2007
Film Scouts

It's an original in a genre done to death (pun intended).

Full Review… | July 2, 2006
Reeling Reviews

Audience Reviews for They Came Back

A very unconventional and ingenious contribution to an increasingly unimaginative genre. Eerily off-center and unsettling.

Randy Tippy

Super Reviewer


They Came Back is an odd little yarn with no greater meaning, which I think probably threw a lot of watchers for a loop. There are no conclusions to be drawn, thematically or narratively, so what you get is a ninety minute day-in-the-life hypothetical as approached through the viewpoints of several people. We get some good depictions of the emotional impact that this resurrection event has on the bereaved, and overall the film did a fine job of actually making me feel what it's like to be a zombie. It's stultifying, but in light of the film's long and leisurely shots and its creeping music, to say nothing of the insulated suburbia we get so many glimpses of, this was clearly the director's intention.

I think that the movie's greatest shortfalling is its mechanical inconsistency. It is a magical realism piece, which is perfectly okay, but the movie's insistence on exploring the "why?" of the film makes the omission of the "how?" all the more glaring. I mean, why not a scene where the scientists and governmental figures in charge ruminate on what's actually brought the dead back to life? We are offered plenty of possible explanations regarding their unusual behaviors, their discordant speech and their routines, and several scenes are set aside to discuss the logistics of accommodating 13,000 extra people. It's not necessarily that I expect or need this question to be answered, but hearing the characters tackle the movie's greatest mystery would have added to the "realism" part of this film. Furthermore, there's a plot development toward the end that doesn't make an ounce of sense in any regard. *minor spoilers ahead* The zombies are able to pull off a rather complex covert operation without arousing any sort of suspicion; I find it strange that they would be able to pull this off undetected, especially with the level of scrutiny that the humans apply to them. This may seem nitpicky, but it's a fairly severe issue that is quite apparent if you give what's happening a few seconds of thought. As with the rest of They Came Back, the ending will please a few but frustrate others; in keeping with the rest of the movie's inexplicable bizarreness, I found it appropriate. Pound for pound, I won't be surprised if you don't like it, but I got a kick out of its vague creepiness and human insights. Not recommended to those looking for a definite plot, or any plot at all, really.

Drew Smith

Super Reviewer

An interesting take on the zombie model. No cannibalism, but plenty of scenes that will remind the astute zombie viewer of many classic shots.

_kelly .King

Super Reviewer

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