Tuesday, May 24, 2011

REVIEW: The Return (2006)

Director: Asif Kapadia
Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Peter O'Brien

"Where you going, sunshine?"
(Repeated line)

You know, having Sarah Michelle Gellar in a horror movie takes work to pull off. Because once you put her face in there, you KNOW all I’ll be able to see is Buffy, and I can’t buy Buffy being so weak as to do nothing but run away and scream weakly like she does in a lot of this movie. I mean, at least this isn’t The Grudge. But it’s still not what I’d expect from, you know, Buffy.

However, in the interest of not letting a good actress be typecasted forever, I have decided to review this film more fairly, as it is not bad, and deserves at least a little bit of praise. People, this is The Return.

Now, first off, yes, that is a very pedestrian and unassuming title. That could be about anything. This film, though, is about a girl who works as a traveling salesperson and goes around to different places because she can’t bear to stay in one place. She ends up in her hometown, though, where weird stuff starts to happen at quite an alarming rate. She then decides to stick around, with the help of a mysterious stranger, to try and figure out what exactly is happening to her.

The story itself is pretty generic and it’s nothing we haven’t seen before, but there were some very good atmospheric moments and scares in this one. The setting of a desolate Texas town is a popular pick for a horror movie setting for a reason. Here it is used to its fullest effect, with hard, noir-ish lighting and dusty roads and empty houses giving off some seriously cool, creepy vibes that horror fans won’t want to miss.

Sarah Michelle Gellar and her co-star Peter O’Brien both tend to be a bit murky in their characterization – like the writer just wasn’t sure where to take these characters. They’re sometimes likable, but other times they’re just not all there, like they weren’t fully completed. It’s kind of distracting.

But what will keep your attention are the scares. I don’t know what it is – the stark, bare-bones directing, the atmosphere, or what – but some of the scares in this movie just hit like bricks, they’re so good. Like there’s one part where Gellar takes off this thing covering a mirror and sees the reflection of someone completely different staring back; very nice effect there. Or when she gets in the car only to look back and see a younger version of herself buried in the back like some hidden corpse, staring up at her with wide eyes. Creepy.

Again, it’s not a great movie, and the story is a bit lopsided and odd at times, maybe not fully formed, but it has a good atmosphere and some good scares. And for that it’s worth checking out, especially if you really dig these kinds of modern ghost stories.