Every once in a while we get a film in horror that raises the bar, brings something fresh to the genre and revitalizes audiences. In recent years films like The Babadook, It Follows and Goodnight Mommy have been surprise indie hits and proved that there is still originality in horror. In 2001 director Alejandro Amenábar took the age-old tale of a haunted house and turned it on its head with his film The Others. That film brought classic tropes into a new twist with rich visuals and wonderful understated performances topped with, most essentially, great scares. Amenábar returns to the genre this week with a new thriller, Regression, but can he hit another home run?
Bruce Kenner (Ethan Hawke) is a detective in 1990 Minnesota investigating the strange case of Angela Gray (Emma Watson), who claims her father John (David Dencik) sexually abused her. The strange part is that John admits to the abuse but claims he has no actual memory of it happening. Kenner seeks the help of psychoanalyst Kenneth Raines (David Thewlis) to use an experimental regression therapy to find out what really happened, but the results of their sessions may be much more shocking than they could have ever imagined.
Regression has many things in common with Amenábar’s film The Others. It is heavy on atmosphere, full of interesting twists, is beautifully photographed and acted well. But it is an entirely different animal. Whereas The Others was very supernatural Regression is much more about the evil of man. The story progresses as a sort of crime mystery thriller as Kenner delves deeper into the bizarre story of Angela’s abuse, discovering that there are many more people involved and a strong chance of the abuse being linked to satanic rituals. Kenner himself even starts to question his own reality and starts becoming increasingly paranoid that he is being watched. Regression is a well-crafted thriller that really holds your interest and keeps you guessing. Both Hawke and Watson are excellent, Hawke in particular seems to be in somewhat of a renaissance in his career that has really taken off since the release of Boyhood in 2014 and he shows no signs of slowing down with no less than 7 projects to be released in the near future. And while Regression may not be on the same level as The Others, it is another notch in Amenábar’s belt and I hope he doesn’t wait so long to return to the genre again. Recommended.