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Regression Review

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For his first film since 2009’s Agora, The Others and Open Your Eyes director Alejandro Amenábar (also scriptwriter here) sets his sights on two real life subjects, the Satanic Ritual Abuse scares in America from the early to mid-Nineties and the controversial psychotherapy known as regression, to craft a psychological thriller with airs to be a gore filled horror movie. Unfortunately, Regression struggles to excel at being either.

Set in 1990, the movie is off to an intriguing start with the case of John Gray (David Dencik), a father who confesses to the abuse and rape of his 17 year old daughter Angela (Emma Watson). The only wrinkle is he has no recollection of these heinous acts. Hitting upon the use of regression, where John is put under hypnosis to relive his lost memories, to get to the bottom of the case, Detective Bruce Kenner (Ethan Hawke) soon finds himself investigating the possibility that the remote town in Minnesota he calls home may be plagued by a satanic cult.


To Amenábar's credit, he injects a suffocating sense of fear and foreboding into proceedings making Kenner’s investigation a tense and heart tightening affair for the most part. The fuzzy, era appropriate look to the cinematography goes a long way to keep you feeling uneasy. The scenes of Devil worship and some stomach churning deaths will instill a growing sense of dread that you will find hard to shake, but shake it you will as the disappointing finale beckons. You can see the director has a problem juggling the two genres, which is a shame since this melding showed a lot of promise.

Hawke is as reliable as ever as the increasingly obsessed detective, and watching his sanity unravel as new pieces of the puzzle are revealed is strangely fascinating. Unfortunately, the audience is always one step ahead of the investigation as the script makes no attempt to the clues to what’s going. Even from reading the synopsis above, you could make a good stab at what’s going on. Predictability is Regression’s biggest enemy, and as clever and twisted the plot tries to be it can’t quite shake it.


The rest of cast are a mixed bag, with Watson doing her best to shed the ghost of Hermione, and mostly succeeding, as the tormented victim, though the script should have given more to do than furthering the plot whenever it turns left into a narrative cul-de-sac. Her Harry Potter alum, David Thewlis, is completely wasted as the psychiatrist in charge of ferreting out the victims lost memories with a role that could have been played by a psychotherapy textbook. Dale Dickey is the only member roof the supporting cast who makes an impression as crazy cat lady that lets the actress just let loose, and the movie is so much better for it.

Run through with a real sense of tension and fear, Regression is a admirable mash-up of genres, but is let down by being just another predictable, by the numbers thriller.






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The Movie Bit: Regression Review
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