- Posted by Carl Lyon
- On May 10, 2016
- 0 Comments
- emma watson, ethan hawke, Review, thriller
When people talk about the 1980s, they often wax nostalgic for the gaudy pop culture of the decade: the gaudy fashions, the synthesized music, and the economic excess of the “Me Decade.” They rarely talk wistfully about the long-running Cold War, the rampant corruption and selfishness, or SRA.
SRA, or Satanic Ritual Abuse, was a long-running issue for the decade, in which young victims claimed to have been subjected to ritualized, cult-fueled abuse. A combination of mass hysteria, pop psychology, and hand-wringing paranoia led to multiple accusations and criminal cases, including the 6-year McMartin trial in which 360 children claimed abuse by the staff of a Los Angeles preschool. However, further examination of the accusers and their statements revealed an epidemic of falsehoods and planted suggestions; ultimately, the worldwide network of child-abusing Satanists was revealed to be nothing more than the collective terror of the masses. This strange chapter in American history provides the bleak backdrop for the new film Regression.
Set in 1990, Regression follows Detective Bruce Kenner (Ethan Hawke, Sinister) as he investigates a case involving a teenage girl named Angela Gray (Emma Watson, the Harry Potter series), who has sought asylum in a local church after accusing her father of rape and other horrific acts. When questioned, Angela’s father (David Dencik, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) confesses to his crimes without hesitation, in spite of having no memories of the heinous acts. In order to try and make sense of Angela’s accusations and her father’s inexplicable confessions, Dr. Kenneth Raines (David Thewlis, The Island of Dr. Moreau) is brought in to perform regression therapy on the Grays, which uncovers more than they could have ever expected.
Written and directed by Alejandro Amenábar (The Others), Regression taps into the cult paranoia of the 1980s with a surprisingly deft hand. While the hysteria of the decade may have been all but debunked almost 30 years ago, Amenábar makes us revisit it with less skeptical eyes, immersing viewers and making us reexamine the phenomenon from within. He does this with smart scripting and direction, especially in the movie’s “uncovered” memories, which are shot with detached voyeurism, which only add to the chilling implications of those memories.
The actors add to the film immensely, turning in a series of understated performances that reflect the grim case at the movie’s core. Ethan Hawke, who’s become a sort of horror mainstay over the past few years, slowly becomes more and more unhinged as Regression progresses, playing his well-worn role of “everyman in over his head” with experienced authenticity. David Thewlis’ Dr. Raines is a somber sidekick, trying to help Kenner get to the truth while potentially poisoning the proverbial well with his unproven regression therapy. Finally, Emma Watson plays the small but pivotal role of Angela Gray with uncomfortable duplicity; she evokes pity with her tales of abuse, but keeps you on edge with subtle hints that she has a few secrets of her own. The supporting cast is equally high-quality, portraying the sort of small-town mentality that breeds the mass hysteria on display.
Not that Regression is perfect. There are a few plot threads left dangling at the film’s conclusion, which is both abrupt and infuriating in how it buttons up the narrative. It’s not sloppily handled or poorly executed, but the final minutes of the movie will anger more than a few viewers for emotional reasons. Finally, there’s a strange, almost unnoticeable anachronism: a poster for Polish black metal band Behemoth is on display in a store window, even though the band itself hadn’t formed until 1991 and the group shot being used wasn’t taken until long after that. Yes, it’s a strange detail to notice and point out, but for a small section of the population, it will shove you instantly out of the carefully-constructed atmosphere of the movie.
It’s very difficult to explain just why Regression works without tipping its carefully concealed hand. While at first glance it may seem like little more than a by-the-numbers thriller, Alejandro Amenábar has crafted a unique movie that manipulates the viewers and shows just how thousands of people can find themselves believing in monsters in their own communities.
Regression is available now on DVD, Blu Ray, and digital formats. Click here for TONS of other great thrillers you can watch now on CONtv!