“Regression” movie review

RegressionIntimately disturbing and suspenseful. Emma Watson and Ethan Hawke star in a film that is one part crime drama and one part supernatural thriller. Inspired by actual cases and claims of growing Satanic cults in the Midwestern part of the country in the late 80s and early 90s, Regression follows one detective’s journey through science, superstition, and organized religion to discover the truth of what happened to a seventeen year old young lady named Angela (Emma Watson) who claimed her father molested her. Opening with the interrogation of her father, Detective Bruce Kenner (Ethan Hawke) is confronted with the conundrum of a suspect who does not deny the vomit-inducing allegations, but is greatly struggling to remember what happened. Cool color temperatures, dreary weather, effective acting, and a creepy small town all come together to make creepy psychological thriller of good versus evil.

Occurring at a time that reports of Satanic cults with blood curdling rituals began to hit a high, Regression brings you face to face with now-discredited psychological therapy practices, blood sacrifice, and sexual deviance. Follow detective Bruce Kenner as he attempts to put the puzzle of what actually happened to Angela together in order to solve this perplexing mystery. First approaching this as a disturbing but typical minor molestetion case, Kenner quickly learns that there is much more to this case than meets the eye. As evidence is uncovered and truths are made known, this investigation goes much deeper and crosses public safety and family boundaries.

This is one of those plots that is difficult to analyze without giving away key parts of the mystery. If you enjoy watching films that contain prolific symbolism and question institutions that exist for physical and spiritual protection, then you will undoubtedly find this film, from the Weinstein Company that flew under the radar, intriguing. Although it is definitely a slow burn, it never moves too slowly and does provide enough of a hook to keep you going. Be sure to pay close attention to every line of dialogue because (hind sight being 20/20 and knowing the ending) there are definitely clues dropped here and there that all point to the answers for which Kenner is looking.

The investigation at the core of the plot is three fold: spiritual, scientific, and legal. Bruce Kenner partners with both a local psychology professor and a reverend to uncover what happened to Angela. As one might expect in a movie such as this, the professor and reverend have vastly different approaches to this mystery. For psychology students or professionals watching this film, you will witness the practice of regression as it plays a significant part in the investigation. The aforementioned practice also raises awareness to invasive psychological therapy techniques. As this film technically falls within the horror genre, it is definitely not short on social commentary. With physical evidence in short supply and a suspect who cannot remember what happened, Kenner relies upon the psychological evidence gather by the professor. Little do our investigators know that these aggressive interview techniques play more into the mystery than they could have known.

Ugh. There is so much more about be plot I’d love to analyze but that would take the fun out of watching it and ruin the mystery for you. So switching gears. From a technical perspective, the film is not remarkable in any way. Neither is it lacking in cinematography or direction. However, movies in this sub genre of horror can so often feel and look like a Lifetime original movie, especially because it includes a significant female character who claims to have been molested. Thankfully, director Alejandro Amenabar (The Others) provides audiences with a “Lifetime” plot that is still cinematic enough to avoid the stigma of “another Liferime movie in theatres.” Emma Watson and Ethan Hawke display excellent acting prowess along with a few of the other key players in this narrative. For the most part, the acting is on par with this crime drama. All the filmmaking elements come together nicely to keep your attention for the hour and a half runtime.

If you enjoy mysteries that confront science and religion, then you will definitely enjoy this film. Right now, it is one of the movies included with your Amazon Prime subscription. Rated R for some visual sexual content, it is pretty tame as far as rated R movies go. There is a gritty and real feel to the movie that might be a little too terrifying for some viewers. However, this IS a psychological thriller that contains many of the earmarks of a good horror film.

Self/less movie review

Self LessBrilliant plot that suffers from traditional shoot-em-up tropes. Self/less promotes itself as a psychological thriller but pulls the ol’ bait ‘n switch by giving the audience a generic semi-thriller with a lot of superficial gun battles. This is one of those films that there was so much potential with moral/ethical dilemmas baked into the plot; but instead of delivering a well-crafted dynamic movie, the audience is left wanting so much more than was served. Ideally, casting British film royalty like Ben Kingsley should increase the appeal and class of a film; but it turns out that any generic older and distinguishing-looking actor could have been cast. Ryan Reynolds proves to live up to his reputation for playing similar roles, and you get lots of shots of his gorgeous face and body; however, his looks just aren’t enough to cary this weak film. Although this movie has been out for a little while, I decided to watch it because of the plot. I probably would have been better off watching Minions.

Self/less is about a well-respected and enormously successful developer in New York City named Damian Hale (Kingsley) who is struggling with rapidly growing cancer. He and his partner Martin (Victor Garber) go to lunch in New Orleans one afternoon, and Damian has a severe allergic reaction to something in the food or coffee and falls over dead–or so we think. Turns out that it was all a setup to get him to the secret neurological research lab of Dr. Albright (Matthew Goode) in order to take part in a new method called “shedding.” This is the process by which the mind of the living is transferred to the brain of another body. Not long after the successful procedure, Damian, now known as Edward (Reynolds), begins to receive flashes of a not-so-distant past that cause him mental pain. Thanks to drugs prescribed by Dr. Albright, the visions are supposed to slowly mitigate. Unknown to Albright, Edward begins to suspect there is something wrong and will stop at nothing to solve the mystery of the distant, vague memories.

Movies about man’s lust for immortality are nearly as old as the medium of cinema itself. But, there are definitely far superior examples of this plot. When the previews first came out for this movie, I was definitely intrigued to see it. I should have known something was up when the movie has been out and I heard no one talking about it. Between Inside Out and The Gallows I totally missed the release date of Self/lessThis should have been my canary in the coal mine sign. Prior to watching the movie, I wasn’t expecting a dynamic riveting experience, because this similar plot was used in the film The Island (2005) directed by Michael Bay–perhaps our film in question would have benefitted from his skill for superficial visual storytelling–after all, that is pretty well what we got anyway. The Island is about wealthy or desperate donors who sponsor clones of themselves in order to harvest parts as theirs breakdown. Some of the same ethical and moral dilemmas exist in both films. However, Self/less has a much better platform for really diving into these topics and exploring all the possibilities. Unfortunately, it is basically a popcorn movie.

If you haven’t seen the movie yet….just wait for it to come out on Netflix. I am sure it won’t be too long before that happens. In the event you just like Ryan Reynolds, you may find enjoyment in this film, but all the acting is quite sub-par for even this hybrid sub-genre of action/psychological/thriller.