Sarah Michelle Gellar
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The Return (2006)
25th Jan 07
Joanna Mills, a traveling business woman, begins having nightmares of a murder that occurred 15 years ago. Soon she is drawn to an old farmhouse, where the murder took place...
Review “La Salle, Texas can’t be found on any map,” intones Voiceover Man on the latest TV ads for The Return, “Pray that it doesn’t find you!” Pray indeed, because any audience this movie finds is set for a wretched ninety minutes of viewing. Billed as a supernatural thriller, this is a film more likely to bore you to death than scare you to death.
Opening with a scene of a terrified young girl hiding from a sinister figure at a funfair, we learn that she has been plagued by nightmarish images since an early age. Fifteen years later, Joanna (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is a restless, independent young woman making a career in sales for a trucking company. When a sales lead takes her back to her home town, the visions intensify and she follows the trail to the town of La Salle where the woman in her dreams was seemingly murdered. And of course, the more secrets she uncovers, the more perilous her own situation becomes.
Whatever hook the producers saw in Adam Sussman’s script – and I can only assume the original script must have had some kind of buzz to it – has been lost in bringing the story to the screen, as the resulting plot is meandering and unfocused throughout. Liberally borrowing ideas here and there from numerous other recent genre fare, The Return really has nothing new to offer. There’s a mysterious car accident that Joanna discovers early on which had me silently screaming “Reeker” at the cinema screen, and that’s just the beginning of this mish-mash of derivative genre clichés.
Despite following a well-worn formula, no matter how tired the ideas are, you’d at least expect a certain level of scare tactics, yet even in this most basic of aspects The Return fumbles the ball, with director Asif Kapadia relying solely on a couple of “faces-in-the-mirror” or “person-walks-suddenly-into-frame” type shocks. There’s one marginally exciting scene involving a truck crash but even this is telegraphed long before it occurs, the hapless driver clearly distracted for a sustained period of time prior to the accident. For a genre film of this kind, it’s a piss-poor display. The rest of the action – such as it is – all takes place in fast-edited close ups which has long become a turn off for this viewer.
The bulk of the film rests largely on the acting shoulders of Sarah Michelle Gellar, as she’s present in nearly every scene of the movie. An actress who hasn’t quite made the smooth transition from the small screen to the big screen since her Buffy days, here again she’s given little to work with, being saddled with such a formulaic script. A change of direction is sorely needed if she’s to avoid getting typecast, her role as Joanna being virtually a facsimile of her character in The Grudge films.
She’s joined by Peter O’Brien (perhaps best known as Shane Ramsay in Neighbours) as Terry, a guy Joanna recognises from her visions, but he brings little to the party aside from the obvious fact that he bears a passing resemblance to Sawyer from Lost, and is a good bit of eye-candy for the ladies in the audience.
Well, that’s assuming there’s any ladies still left awake, and judging from the large protracted yawn that projected across the auditorium midway through the screening, that’s a debatable point. It’s a little worrying when the biggest audience reaction of the night occured during the trailers (when the title of Blood And Chocolate was revealed to much bemused laughter) rather than in the main feature itself, but that’s this film’s biggest flaw, there’s just nothing here to hold the attention.
Quite what kind of audience Rogue Pictures were aiming for is questionable, as it totally fails to deliver on the supernatural chills suggested in the trailer, and without any trace of suspense or horror it’s a wholly pointless exercise – in fact on this anaemic evidence I find it hard to see how it earned itself a 15 certificate at all!
It’s not a badly made film, the first American feature from London-born Kapadia (who had BAFTA success with his previous British film, The Warrior) but he falls into the trap of coating all the modern day scenes in washed-out colours. Whereas the use of filters met with partial success in the recent Pulse remake, here it just heightens and reflects the drab events playing out across the screen.
I’m really struggling to find any positives here, it’s just a vacuous shell of a movie (Bland Of The Dead, anyone?) limping through a minefield of abandoned plot holes (like how come Terry doesn’t seem to have aged in the intervening 15 years?) to its eventual, merciful conclusion. In this time of needless sequels we can only pray that there’s no return for The Return.