Alejandro Amenábar, director of the superlative ghost story The Others, does a less assured job with Regression. This is a very ponderous affair, pitched in some purgatorial wasteland between cop thriller and Rosemary’s Baby-style Satanic drama. Set in Minnesota in 1990, very murkily lit, it follows detective Bruce Kenner (Ethan Hawke) as he investigates the case of a young woman, Angela (Emma Watson), who has accused her father (David Dencik) of abuse. Her allegations lead Kenner into what appears to be a world of Satanic abuse. Cue weird sequences in which the townsfolk turn up with talcum powder-covered faces, behaving as if they’re auditioning for a remake of The Devil Rides Out.
David Thewlis plays the psychologist, trying to help the father summon repressed memories of his alleged crimes. Kenner becomes so involved in the case that he is soon tormented by his own demons, prey to nightmares.
Amenábar’s intentions are hard to fathom. On the one hand, this is a drama about mass hysteria, false memory, superstition and the power of suggestion. On the other, it has the hallmarks of a horror movie. The usually dependable Hawke gives a strident and increasingly overwrought performance. The film shifts style and tone in a sometimes baffling fashion. Regression is supposedly based on true events but Amenábar’s scattergun approach strains our credulity and patience alike.
Alejandro Amenábar, 106 mins Starring: Ethan Hawke, Emma Watson, David Thewlis
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