Tagged Incest

One of Horror’s Most Underappreciated Sequels – AMITYVILLE II: THE POSSESSION

An underrated sequel that rarely gets its due, and tackles some terrifying ideas with its story.

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Animal Kingdom – Season 1, Episode 5: “Flesh is Weak”

TNT’s Animal Kingdom
Season 1, Episode 5: “Flesh is Weak”
Directed by Christopher Chulack
Written by Megan Martin

* For a review of the previous episode, “Dead to Me” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Child Care” – click here
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With Grandma Smurf (Ellen Barkin) now on his back, Josh (Finn Cole) is faced with an all new Cody Family dynamic. But for the beginning of this episode we flash back to a younger Deran (Jake Weary) skateboarding with his friends, one of whom is Adrian (Spencer Treat Clark). So it’s clear, from the look on Adrian’s face watching Deran heroically fly off the pier into the water after grinding a bench, their attraction has been going on a long, long time. Sadly, Deran obviously feels within his family he can’t trust any of them with his secret.
I say this is a flashback simply because Adrian’s hair is slightly different, Deran looks a bit younger in the way he dresses. So though it isn’t completely clear, I do believe this is a flash to earlier days. Not crazy long ago, just a little while before now. Plus, do you ever see Deran hanging with many people outside his little circle?
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Back in present day, Baz (Scott Speedman) and Deran meet up at the beach. Baz wants to get things going, as Smurf says the jobs are good to go again. But Deran says he’s “done” and that he doesn’t want any more of his mother’s bullshit. At home, the Cody Gang are talking about the new job. Pope (Shawn Hatosy) isn’t exactly pleased with his mother’s plan while Craig (Ben Robson) just goes along, mostly. For his part, Pope doesn’t want to do a small time job, he’d rather go big.


In other news, the Cody Family now meets Lieutenant Commander Paul Belmont (C. Thomas Howell). He’s looking for his daughter Nicky (Molly Gordon), who hasn’t been home in awhile. She’s been staying over at the Cody compound. You know Smurf does a good job talking things out, though. She even invites the Belmont crew over for supper. Inside, the boys talk about Belize, and how Deran once took off for months, so that’s why Smurf is a little more lenient with him; she doesn’t want a repeat. Big brother Pope offers to go get his younger brother. Ah, this is going to play out well. And there’s also the fact Smurf just doesn’t want Pope there, so she agrees totally. Later, the Belmonts head over for supper and things go pretty well. Baz talks with Paul, as the Navy man recounts stories of overseas duty and so on. Little apple pie for dessert. It’s all smooth.
Adrian and Deran are on good terms again. They hang, surf, smoke joints. Adrian introduces Deran to his buddy Dave (Adam Huber), but you can see there’s jealousy on the part of the ever aggressive Cody. He feels like there’s another man hovering around. His insecurities are alive and well. At the same time, Pope goes looking for his little bro only to find his apartment in complete disarray, beer bottles, food, all sorts of things just rotting away. Then he sits. And waits.
Renn (Christina Ochoa) is recovering. She also has an idea about who robbed her. For a second Craig almost thinks he’s been found out. However, she believes it’s a guy named Sage that is supposedly a friend, a customer. Now Renn wants his legs broken. Oh, man.
And then we can’t forget about Deran. He follows Adrian and Dave, as they head out on the town together. Nothing overtly romantic happens, though the two are close, and you can just feel the tension mounting in Deran. Not good. At all. Afterwards, he sneaks into Arian’s place, wrestles him into bed and they fuck. Adrian isn’t happy with their relationship, he wants more. We find out Belize was all about him and Adrian, too. But the Cody boy is still afraid of mommy finding out.


So there’s also Josh, sneaking out to an art exhibit with his teacher, Alexa Anderson (Ellen Wroe). They talk, admire art. She drinks and talks casually, if not a bit flirty, even dirty at times. There’s such a clear violation of professional behaviour here. Even more so when she invites Josh in after they leave the gallery. I’m interested to see where this all heads. Smurf won’t like this, whatsoever. An older woman going after J, it might hit close to home, and could cause something extremely scary.
We keep seeing more of Baz – stressed by the Cody Gang drama – and his Mexican girlfriend, which I’m waiting to see implode. Pope clearly doesn’t like that Barry takes off with another woman since he has a deep thing for Catherine (Daniella Alonso). Speaking of Pope, he goes to see Adrian looking for Deran. Does Pope know, or at least suspect? Hard to tell for sure.
When Smurf goes to do J’s laundry, she finds a postcard-type picture from the exhibit. Something on it does not make her happy.


Pope finally tracks down his younger brother. He’s clearly got love for Deran, even in the smallest sense. He tries to tell Deran to come back. They talk about all sorts of things, from Smurf to Belize. Obviously some of the Cody boys want to get out from under their domineering mother. We see more of the bond between brothers, as Deran tells Pope: “If you do somethin and you dont ask me why, Ill come home.” Is something bad about to happen to Dave, or Adrian? My bet’s on the former. Christ, this is tense.
The other brother Craig is busy looking for Sage, so he can beat him down good and hard for Renn. Craig admits there’s apprehension on his part, but when the guy fights back instead of playing along like he wants, the whole thing gets more serious.
At the gallery, Smurf goes to find a particular portrait, a man surfing. She knows him. Is this a former husband? Josh’s father? I’d bet Smurf had a relationship with him because the way she goes after finding the guy out is emotional, if not she wouldn’t bother so much. Well, she and the lady photographer who shot the picture wind up having a little lesbian fun, as Smurf tries seducing the man’s identity out of her.
Josh goes out collecting rent for Smurf. One guy gives him an ultimatum – weed now, come back for rent later. The guy tries to strong arm him, but J stays his ground and the guy passes him the envelope a second later. A really suspenseful second or two, I thought something nuts was going to go down. Over at home, Nicky is sitting poolside and Baz breaks them out a couple beers. They chat like friends, about dinner the other night, her father Paul, all that stuff. What’s interesting is a moment where Nicky mentions his classified documents, a briefcase. A slight glimmer passes through Baz’s eyes. Next job? Uh oh.
In the night, Josh goes to Ms. Anderson’s place and starts kissing her. She stops, though, and he agrees: “Ill see you in class.” Hmm. An odd, awkward moment.


Pope finds Dave out on the dock. He shocks him, then takes the guy’s boat out on the water. Poor Dave is zip tied for the ride. Pope cuts them off then tosses Dave overboard to let him swim back to shore. He has no idea why Deran wants it done, but he does his little brother a favour. But what does this solve? Dave will likely make it back to shore, right? He makes it back and Adrian is pissed, he knows just what happened. He also has an idea about the way Smurf is with her boys. Something sinister is brewing within this closeted, fragile, deteriorating relationship.
As for Smurf, she is stuck on that mysterious surfer’s picture. She flashes back momentarily to coming out of a pool as a little girl, seeing an older boy above her waiting. Did the boys’ father do something bad to her? That might explain how fucked up she is as a mother and grandmother nowadays.
Deran goes slinking back home to mother, as always. She gladly takes him back in, lovingly. It’s clear none of the Codys, neither Smurf or her boys, are right without one another. And I was right – Baz has his eye on the Navy base. This is something pretty damn sketchy, and I can only imagine where it will lead.
The guy that gave J a hard time collecting rent was a setup by Smurf. To check his loyalty, surely. Such a hilarious criminal family. When Baz arrives in the morning he lets Smurf in on the Navy job idea. With Deran back, the whole gang is together once more. Things between Baz and Pope aren’t exactly perfect, either. But they’re all under the same roof at least.
Out on the pier, Ms. Anderson meets Detective Sandra Yates (Nicki Micheaux); she’s informing. Oh. Shit. Never expected that one. This adds an entirely new dimension to everything, from J and Ms. Anderson’s relationship to the next big job the Cody Gang are hoping to pull off.
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Very good episode. Dig it, so hard. Excited to see the next one titled “Child Care” and I have to say, Animal Kingdom as a series is defying my expectations. Usually these remakes into series’ I hear about make me roll my eyes. This show is proving me wrong at every turn. If the writing is appropriate, a great movie can morph into a solid series. Just so long as the writers and directors are willing to flesh things out and dig into the material instead of rehashing. This one gets into all new territory, and I’m in love with it equally as much as the film. There, I said it!

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Animal Kingdom – Season 1, Episode 4: “Dead to Me”

TNT’s Animal Kingdom
Season 1, Episode 4: “Dead to Me”
Directed by Regina King
Written by Etan Frankel

* For a review of the previous episode, “Stay Close, Stick Together” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Flesh is Weak” – click here
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An episode directed by TNT’s Southland alumni Regina motherfuckin’ King! Yeah, baby. Go on and get it. Let’s do this already.
Uncle Deran (Jake Weary) wakes up his nephew Josh (Finn Cole). He offers a free swing, apologising for the pool incident. J’s fine with things being smooth from here on in, though Deran is still a bit edgy. He’s only worried if Smurf (Ellen Barkin) knows everything is fine again. Downstairs, Baz (Scott Speedman) pulls in and helps poor, helpless Pope (Shawn Hatosy) make coffee. The Cody Boys discover there’s no breakfast. Smurf has been doing her own thing during the night, she had a man over. Nobody is surprised, but Pope doesn’t like the look of it. In other news, it’s his birthday. Everybody has big plans from sky diving to paintball. Pope’s not into any of it. All the while, Deran, Baz, they’re all hiding the fact they’ve made some of their own money since they were supposed to be keeping things on the down low. Upstairs, Josh finds himself in another awkward naked encounter with grandma Smurf; she gives him cash, unaware he also has more of it himself. She tries to get info, but Josh is solid. Probably more concerned his uncles would kill him if he blabbed. Still, Smurf knows there’s something up. She is not at all stupid.
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So the boys are all having a fun time. Deran and Baz get the paintball kicking off, as a reluctant Pope gets pulled into it before smashing up the new gun. No fun, dude. All of a sudden Baz gets a text from Smurf: CUTBACK. He takes all the cellphones, switching out SIM cards. There’s something shitty about to happen. Emergency measures are taken. Everyone’s leaving town, or at least hiding out. Cash and anything else necessary is being packed, ready to ship off. Baz wants Pope to stay, but you know that ain’t sitting with the man himself. The Cody Boys and Baz all head to a safe house with food and supplies to wait on a call from their lawyer. As it turns out there’s no emergency. All Smurf. She knows there’s “bullshit jobs” going on without her involvement. Mama offers her boys once chance to come out with the truth. Then she shuts down her sons, telling them no more jobs, no more money. They’re cut off on their own now, so she says.
Josh is having a hard time adjusting to his family. Especially when you consider the fact he’s got school, a normal life, Nicky (Molly Gordon), and that’s tough to juggle. He gets caught smoking a joint at school, by a teacher who’s interest in him is not positively all teacher-like, in my opinion. That could end up going somewhere further. She isn’t exactly professional, smoking the joint and asking him to go to a photographer’s surf exhibit.


The Cody Boys and Big Baz are up in the air, getting ready to skydive. At that very same time, they argue about the side jobs they’ve been doing. Not a nice place to be arguing and pushing each other around like a bunch of animals. Sure enough, one of them gets tossed from the plane and then they all head for the air. This is an awesome sequence involving some GREAT stunts mid-air. These guys are lunatics. Whoever did the stunt work here are a bunch of wild dudes. Makes the whole thing plenty fun.
Catherine (Daniella Alonso) finds Josh coming to check on her, bringing mac and cheese. He’s such a good kid amongst a family of maniacs. In the meantime, Baz is over at his dad’s trailer again. Only dear ole dad is nowhere to be found. And Craig (Ben Robson), he finds his girlfriend Renn (Christina Ochoa) overdosed in her bathroom, dead. So he takes advantage, great guy he is, taking any jewellery and pills and whatever else he can find. What a man.
Josh is having a bit of a rough day, being his mother’s birthday and all. The Codys don’t talk of her “like she never existed” and Catherine knows this all too well. We find out more about Josh’s mother; Baz tried to get her help, but that didn’t work. She stole a lot of money from them, it seems. But mainly I’m sure Smurf couldn’t control her daughter, and lack of control is a problem for Mama Smurf when it comes to her brood. Speaking of her, she’s trying to keep Nicky close, digging her claws in.
And boy, does Craig have big trouble. His painkiller supply is in danger of drying up. At least he’s got plenty of other drugs kicking around. Well, that isn’t exactly good. There’s a chance he could burn out quick. Especially because he’s got addiction and guilt all rolled into one, all the while keeping secrets from mommy. Tsk, tsk.
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We find Baz being a dick now to Josh. He doesn’t want the kid poking around. But it’s only because Baz is paranoid. About the Codys, about what Josh might want to know concerning his mother. About everything. He’s letting that tear his own family apart, as Catherine hates that Smurf controls him the way she does. Because that’s the bottom line, he’s worried about being “iced out” by the matriarch of the gang.
The birthday celebrations are still going hard. And the boys are all fretting over what their mom knows, even while sitting in a strip club. Deran is fronting hard trying to convince everyone, mostly his nephew, that he’s straight. Pope hooks Josh up with a lap dance while Baz tries to give Pope a nice time with a lady of his own. Except Pope has some issues – what exactly, I’m still not sure, though I have my guesses. Alone with the stripper, Pope reveals: “I cant remember the last time I had an erection.” Not just that, he seems so unbelievably wound up inside that it’s scary. Then he makes the woman say “we cant, Andrew” – and now I’m sure he’s had intimate contact with his mother. He and Smurf have had sex at some point. There is no doubt. Good fucking lord. I expected the incest, but still a shock.
Most interesting? Craig gets a call from Renn, alive and in the ER. Whoa, this could be a devastating turn.

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Later on, Pope takes Josh out with him into the woods somewhere. He talks about the Seven Seals, the Horsemen, et cetera. He thinks maybe the Cody Boys and Baz are the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. An eerie conversation. Just goes to show his warped, strange way of thinking. Then Uncle Pope takes his nephew over a fence to a graveyard. They’re headed for Josh’s mom, to pay respects to her grave on her and Pope’s birthday. There’s a side to Pope that is also gentle. It rarely comes out. More now I begin to think he’s so messed up because of things that have happened in his life. Things that could have, and should have, been prevented. The root of all the evil might just lie in Smurf. For the time being, Pope reminisces about his and his sister’s birthday, how they made wishes and told each other, keeping their secrets; the whole Cody family’s foundation is built purely on secrets, lies, hidden truths. Josh comes out and asks Pope about Baz and his mother. “Baz has a way of getting what he wants,” replies the uncle with an acidic tone. Moreover, we see that Pope has lingering feelings about what happened to his sister, and that he knows more than he lets on. No telling what happened to Julia for her to fall into such despair. Just being part of that family is enough to make a person an addict, as we can also see by looking at Craig.
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At home, Smurf kicks everybody out. She is really putting that foot down. And then Baz snitches to Smurf, about Pope. He reveals the job Deran and Josh did with Pope. Ah, more ammo to fuel the fire between the brothers, between Pope and Baz, between Baz and the Cody Brothers. So many things coming together, pulling apart. There’s only so long this can last. I wonder how Smurf’s going to react to all this going forward. You can never tell with her devious behaviour.
In the hospital Craig finds Renn. She’s okay, though took a hard overdose. She also thinks there was a robbery. No idea that it was her supposedly sweet manfriend. Renn wants Craig to take care of who stole from her: “You hurt him and Ill make it worth your while.” He is a piece of shit for letting this happen.
Once Josh gets back home Smurf is waiting with a cupcake, a candle in it. She also wants to know the truth about her boys and what they’re doing behind her back. Further than that she makes clear that Josh needs to do right by her. Or else.
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Everything is so intense and suspenseful within the wild Cody family. I love seeing Finn Cole in the midst of it, he does well with the character. I can’t wait for the next episode “Flesh is Weak” because there’ll be plenty more intrigue, excitement, and disturbing shit. Stay with me, fellow fans!

For My Brother is a Harrowing, Honest Perspective on Systemic Child Abuse

For Min Brors Skyld (English title: For My Brother). 2014. Directed & Written by Brian Bang.
Starring Elias Munk, Christopher Friis Jensen, Allan Karlsen, Frank Schiellerup, Oliver Bjørnholdt Spottag, Tina Nørby, Frederik Ingemann Brandt, Lara León, Marie Louise Lund Jensen, Kit Langberg Rasmussen, William Gaarde, Robin Koch, Oliver Skou, Dorte Evalyn Evon, & Tobias Hyttel. Bang Entertainment.
Not Rated. 117 minutes.
Drama

★★★1/2
POSTERBefore getting into this review, I have to state the following.
TRIGGER WARNING: this movie contains several graphic scenes of sexual abuse and rape, as well as implicit and explicitly implied situations of incest, et cetera. PLEASE, if you have an aversion to any of this, turn back. And certainly don’t watch the film.

First time writer-director Brian Bang (also serving as cinematographer, producer, locations scout, editor, casting director) has come on strong with his feature For Min Brors Skyld, which I’ll refer to from here on in by its English title, For My Brother.
This is an excruciating look at the life two young brothers live saddled only with their father, their mother having died seven years before. Their father is an abusive man, both physically and sexually, and he also allows a friend of his to molest his oldest son in return for money. The oldest boy takes care of the youngest, sheltering him from the life he’s been forced into by his father. Right from the start we’re aware of the abuse. Unlike an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit or some typical drama tackling the subject, we’re never kept in the dark. And that’s part of why Bang’s feature is so brutally effective, even though it occasionally steps in too deep for its own good.
With a movie like this there’s often a headlong dive into sensationalism, as people become aware of the abuse and either revenge or justice starts to work its magic. However, Bang keeps us rooted in the experience of the boys, and this is what sets it apart from similar projects. Yes, it is often hard to watch, especially when the graphic qualities jump out at you during various scenes. Despite that, our immersion in the perspective of the older brother Aske (Elias Munk) particularly is how Bang manages to keep us interested and still watching after the plot turns nastier than nasty. There are a couple moments I’m not sure of, in the sense of morality and also writing. On the whole, For My Brother is a psychologically harrowing piece of cinema, and also with its reality takes upon itself the role of showing viewers just how hopeless, never ending, horrific the sexual abuse of children really is, never pulling any punches and never once keeping the gloves on.
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This sort of stuff always hits close to home for me. I don’t particularly enjoy sitting through any sexual assault scenes, in any film. Funny enough, Irréversible is an amazing movie, as is the original Wes Craven The Last House on the Left. Yet I still have to fast forward through the former’s infamous scene, and take no pleasure in the latter’s either. However, when these types of scenes or themes involve children, that’s tough to take. Any person in their right mind would feel that way, especially if they’ve been close to abuse or have been abused themselves. Ultimately, I feel what Bang does here with his story is not exploitative. We do in fact see a few graphic moments, one sees a bunch of men holding Aske down as he’s blindfolded, taking turns raping him. In fact if you can make through the initial scene, you’re not likely to turn away. Bang opens with an event that’s traumatizing. There’s nothing aggressive happening, other than emotionally aggressive, yet the impact is lasting. You’ll be revolted so quick, so hard and fast that moving forward will certainly be questionable for many. Worse than that his mother dies after being hit by a car. Not only is it sad anyway, but she is the one lifeline that Aske had, now that’s gone. So you almost feel like you’re on the verge of Dante’s Inferno, rimming a Circle of Hell, as the mother dies and unwillingly must leave her son in the hands of his paedophile father. Horrifying to begin a film. If you hang after the first 15 minutes, the rest (mostly) isn’t as bad.
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For My Brother expresses the inescapable feeling abused children feel, that they continue to feel. Often people wonder how someone, once they’re older, can go on letting things happen, or at the very least go on without telling of what’s already happened before. It’s because of the cycle, the systemic degradation and humiliation of a young person by the abuse. Here, it’s twofold, as Aske’s father Lasse (Allan Karlsen) has pimped him out to others since the boy was young, also taking his turn, too. So after years and years, especially as a male being raped by his own father, the desire to stay silent is stronger. Like any other behaviour, the sex in all forms is completely routine. In opposition, sex is also warped. Much as Aske wants to be with a girl he can’t seem to get the job done, at least not right away. A young girl flips on him for not immediately getting an erection, so worse now is the shame. At this point in the film, Aske tells his close friend in a rage. Not all victims will even tell anybody. Many only find their greatest shame discovered after people find out somehow, and if it’s an ongoing thing it could go on forever. That’s the unfortunate point Bang gets across as a writer.
Without spoiling the end, this movie is grim through and through. There are only slight glimmers of hope. These come when the brothers are together. This is why the film has its title. Aske not only tries to protect his brother (as in “I take the abuse for my brother”), he likewise keeps living because his brother is the sole bright spot in his life (as in “I only live but for my brother”). Moreover, the actor that plays Aske – Elias Munk – does a fantastic job. It’s hard to play a role like this, as it can easily descend into melodrama. Coupled with the ultra realistic style of Bang’s direction, Munk makes the character feel real. He is complex. He is tortured, but also has a light and foolish side that comes out with his brother. Seeing him deal with the brutal life his father forces upon him is emotional, you’ll probably find a tear or two ready to form, if they don’t full on fall. Similar to Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s performance in Mysterious Skin, Munk plays this edgy, tough role with grace and power. I’ll definitely be seeking out other films he’s in to watch him again.
I have to mention Frank Schiellerup playing the hideous pervert Hans. Basically, he’s the villain of the movie. Alongside the father, of course. From the beginning he is a terrifying presence in Aske’s life. Once the boy’s mother dies you can almost feel the guy ready to crawl all over him like a serpent on its prey. There is something eerie about him and so I have to give credit to Schiellerup. He makes Hans into a proper monster.
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This is not a movie I’ll recommend. If you’re brave enough, go ahead. It undeniably does have a message. Don’t let anybody tell you that it’s gratuitous for the sake of being harsh. For all its nastiness, it could easily have been nastier. Absolutely. There is a slight, if barely visible hint of restraint. Either way, For My Brother does not sugar coat any of its subject matter. It also doesn’t offer any hope. Not saying this is a requirement. Not all stories are the same. Though it’s notably admirable for a film to try spearheading a raw, honest depiction of child abuse. While there are plenty elements which could’ve been executed better (the score mainly did nothing except detract from the realistic style), Brian Bang does pretty good for his first feature, and again, commendable to take on such a controversial, difficult topic as he does. Here’s to more hard looks at the tough corners in life. Bang will hopefully do something else gritty next time, looking into a different pocket of our fucked up world.

Amenábar’s Regression: Bland, Dull Creeps & Cults

Regression. 2015. Directed & Written by Alejandro Amenábar.
Starring Emma Watson, Ethan Hawke, David Thewlis, Devon Bostick, Aaron Ashmore, Dale Dickey, David Dencik, Lothaire Bluteau, Kristian Bruun, Adam Butcher, and Aaron Abrams. Mod Producciones/First Generation Films/FilmNation Entertainment/Himenóptero/Telefonica Studios.
Rated 14A. 106 minutes.
Crime/Drama/Mystery

★★★
POSTERAlejandro Amenábar’s first feature Thesis blew me away. Later, a different sort of film, Abre los ojos, was equally stunning. Then I truly adored The Others, as a modern classic of the haunted house sub-genre; an all around impressive picture. He has great qualities as a filmmaker, both his writing and directing full of talent. Proving himself on various ends of the spectrum, he doesn’t always have to be creepy. But when he goes for horror, or stories with scary/horror elements, Amenábar can really dig the hooks in. Perhaps that’s why this film let me down.
While I admit Regression has a nice mood and atmosphere, along with a couple solid horror visuals that creeped me out over and over, the whole movie is disappointing. If it weren’t for Ethan Hawke and Emma Watson I don’t know but I would’ve turned this movie off halfway through. Perhaps it has to do with how I’m painfully aware of the Satanic Panic of the 1980s and early 1990s. Or maybe Amenábar didn’t write a good enough script. One way or another I find this movie tedious. Sure, the few dreamy horror bits in the film are intense, and totally worth it. But otherwise there isn’t enough to justify a 106-minute romp through territory I, and so many others, have already read, watched, et cetera.
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In Minnesota during 1990, Detective Bruce Kenner (Ethan Hawke) is assigned to the case of John Gray (David Dencik) whose seventeen-year-old daughter Angela (Emma Watson) is accusing him of sexual abuse. Although, the problem is John admits it must be true if his daughter claims the abuse happened, but doesn’t recall any of it ever taking place. Even worse, the further Angela regains her memory, with the help of regression therapy by Professor Kenneth Raines (David Thewlis), dark and sinister details come out about the abuse. Worse than incest, worse than rape, it comes to stand Angela says there were Satanic rituals performed. The whole family involved. Babies stabbed to death, their blood drank. An entire town of Satanists throbbing right below the surface.
And as Kenner further tracks down the details, he slowly imagines the devious world beneath everything bubbling up, coming for him. His mind crosses from hard reality to the dreamy fog of illusion.
Is Angela telling the truth? Is everyone beginning to remember what truly happens in their small Minnesota town? Does a Satanic cult really operate under the radar? Kenner has to figure it out. One way or another.
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I still can’t exactly point to the one single thing that makes this movie a bummer for me. There are a few reasons I suspect this is the case. First, the weird energy of the film builds up then the resulting finale comes off as anti-climactic. Possibly no other way to end the film, but found it a bore in the end. Second, the acting talent of Emma Watson is wasted; her role is large, yet it’s as if we spend most of our time seeing her in one way when the end of the film, her character at that point is the side of her we wanted to, needed to, see more of ultimately. My suggestion? The screenplay ought to have been slightly longer, and maybe the big reveal placed earlier, so as to draw out more of the excellent characterization of Watson’s character. Would have made the climactic portion seem better. Finally, anyone who has ever heard of the Satanic Panic craze could draw a roadmap almost immediately where Regression was headed. Right away I knew what would happen with Watson and her character. I kept holding on, further and further, hoping Amenábar was right around the corner from dazzling me with some interesting twist, a surprising turn. That never came. Most of the film felt exciting and horrific at certain moments, even in the stagnant pieces. But there was no pay off. Nothing at the end, no pot of gold or anything.
And that leaves us with the acting. As I said, Watson is underused and not given enough time to do anything more than play a sad, tragic girl who seems to be caught up in a terrifying world. Outside of the crying and the withdrawn nature of that character there’s nothing much else happening; once more, I say, sad and missed opportunity. So really it’s the Ethan Hawke show – even David Thewlis doesn’t get enough screentime to make his character worth it. Hawke is a talented guy, whose work shows well in the character of Kenner. He is a man who wants to believe in something bigger, something more beautiful and full than the broken lives of the people he sees, being a detective and all. Except he can’t believe in anything more. With the case here, he becomes involved in a deep good vs. evil type mindset. The ending throws him for a loop altogether. Watching Hawke take us through this guy’s rollercoaster head trip it is a blast, as he gives us many solid moments, sucking us into the madness Kenner falls into like we’re right in the same boat.
Also, I’ve got to mention Dale Dickey as Rose Gray, the grandmother. She is an amazing character actor who pops up in everything, from Breaking Bad to Winter’s Bone and everything in between. Her intensity, her face full of expression and rocky wisdom, it all proves an important piece to the film. The scenes with her, every one, are interesting and definitely full of excitement. She is a treasure and a wonderful addition to this cast.
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Quality acting cannot fully save a film. Even with creepy images thrown in, horror among all the mystery and thriller storytelling, Alejandro Amenábar does not come anywhere near his previous directorial/written efforts so far with Regression. Not all bad, the film overall just seems like a massive swing and miss. There were places this could’ve went that it did not. There were other ways the story and plot could’ve been structured, yet Amenábar stuck with this and things feel flat for such a large portion of the movie. While I still find it good enough for 3 stars, so many things need improving. It’s too bad because Amenábar is a fabulous filmmaker, an intriguing writer. He simply fell short on this. Luckily, there’s enough of the creep factor here and several nice performances, so the whole thing is not a waste. Don’t expect anything overly impressive. I went in hoping for so much more. Now, I wish I’d curbed those expectations a fair deal more.