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BuzzFeed: "Your Next Television Obsession Is French Supernatural Thriller The Returned"

You won’t just become addicted to Sundance Channel’s French-language drama about people returning from the dead; it will haunt your dreams.

"Your Next Television Obsession Is French Supernatural Thriller The Returned"

In the opening sequence of extraordinary French thriller The Returned, a yellow butterfly, pinned and placed in a display case, mounted on a wall, unexpectedly flutters back to life and smashes through its glass prison. It’s an enigmatically beautiful moment, and an apt metaphor for the overall premise of The Returned (which premieres Oct. 31 at 9 p.m. on the Sundance Channel), a collision between the worlds of the living and the dead that leaves both shattered.

Created by Fabrice Gobert (who shares directing duties with Frédéric Mermoud) and based on a 2004 film of the same name, The Returned (in French, Les Revenants) is unlike anything else on television, on either side of the Atlantic, an atmosphere-laden and character-driven drama that deftly blends supernatural horror, psychological terror, and familial tragedy. (If you’d like some sort of signposts into this unknown territory, I’d argue that The Returned is The Walking Dead multiplied by The 4400 plus Twin Peaks and divided by In the Flesh and, say, Anthony Minghella’s Truly, Madly, Deeply.)

The series — which has been renewed for a second season that will air in November 2014 on Canal+ in France —depicts what happens when the dead return to a French village, seemingly unaged, and the lives of those forever altered by the death of a loved one and their return. (You might be asking, Isn’t this similar to that ABC midseason show Resurrection, which is based on Jason Mott’s novel The Returned and is about what happens to a town when the dead return? While both have resounding similarities — the dead when they come back haven’t aged and seem to be alive; there is a seemingly mute boy at the center of each show; the time between death and return is different for each character, etc. — they aren’t directly related. An English language version of Les Revenants is already in the works as well for U.K. television under the aegis of Shameless and State of Play creator Paul Abbott.)

Each of the eight episodes that comprise The Returned’s first season focuses on the death of a specific character: morose teen Camille (Yara Pilartz), who was killed three years earlier in a horrific bus accident that killed 37 of her classmates as well and splintered her grieving family; musician Simon (Pierre Perrier), who mysteriously dies on his wedding day, leaving behind a pregnant fiancée in Adèle (Clotilde Hesme); eerily silent child “Victor” (Swann Nambotin), whose presence seems to presage doom and who has an ability to conjure a person’s darkest fear. Oh, and did I mention that one of the dead is a cannibalistic serial killer named Serge (Guillaume Gouix) who likes to repeatedly stab women in a subterranean tunnel and then eat their internal organs? One of his victims, stoic nurse Julie (Céline Sallette), survived Serge’s final attack seven years earlier before he seemingly vanished, though she has been haunted by the notion that she could come face to face with him again. Especially when a local waitress, Lucy Clarsen (Ana Girardot), is stabbed in the same tunnel as Julie…

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