TV review: 'The Returned' a haunting drama

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It's hard to imagine a zombie drama more different from "The Walking Dead" than Sundance Channel's French (with English subtitles) import "The Returned" (9 p.m. Thursday).

No flesh-eating zombies populate "The Returned." It is much more of a psychological thriller that impresses with its use of an unnerving stillness.

"The Returned"
When: 9 p.m. Thursday on Sundance.
Starring: Yara Pilartz and Jenna Thiam.

Based on the 2004 French film "Les Revenants," this series introduces seemingly disparate characters whose lives are intertwined when loved ones who died begin returning to town as if nothing happened.

Each episode is named for a character. Thursday's premiere, "Camille," tracks a French teen (Yara Pilartz) who died in a bus accident and the impact she has on her family -- including a now older twin sister, Lena (Jenna Thiam) -- when she wanders into town from the accident site and attempts to restart her life.

Some time has passed since Camille's death and the impact of her loss is unmistakable: Her parents are divorced, her mother is in a new relationship and her sister has gone down a self-destructive path.

The premiere also introduces Simon (Pierre Perrier), a musician who's seeking the woman he was en route to marry when he died, Adele (Clotilde Hesme), who is now engaged to another man.

At the same time, a single female doctor, Julie (Celine Sallette), finds a young boy she nicknames Victor (Swann Nambotin) has followed her home. He's like the creepiest child ever from Creepy Kid Central Casting and helps complete the show's overall sense of unease.

Through the first two episodes of "The Returned," there's nothing to suggest these undead are plotting a bloodthirsty takeover, but of course, there's still time.

"The Returned" begins as a smart, character-driven drama with an atmosphere of fear and dread that's haunting. It's the ideal thriller for a Halloween night premiere.

Sundance is carried on Comcast's Channel 165 (or 164 on former Adelphia systems), Verizon Fios TV's Channel 392, DirecTV's Channel 558 and DISH Network's Channel 358. Armstrong does not carry Sundance.

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