The Return (2006) Review

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

The Return (2006) Review

Horrorific content by jessicagomez on May 26th, 2021 | Movie Review | Supernatural, Drama, Psychological

When a young woman returns to her hometown and begins experiencing realistic visions and involuntary self-harm, she must uncover the secrets behind them.

The Return was directed by Asif Kapadia and stars Adam Scott (from Little Evil), Kate Beahan (from Southbound), Sarah Michelle Gellar (from I Know What You Did Last Summer), Peter O'Brien (from Lake Alice) and Sam Shepard.

The past never dies. It kills.

The Return Review

Late one night when nothing was on TV, I came across The Return, and watched it with semi-interest as I fell asleep. Years later, I “returned” to watch it from beginning to end, and found exactly why this star-studded horror thriller was playing on cable in the middle of the night. 

Joanna (Sarah Michelle Gellar) has had strange visions and violent outbursts since she was 11 years old, shortly after a car accident she was involved in. During these visions, she is unable to decipher if what she’s experiencing is based in reality; she’s never seen the people or the places before, but it all seems very familiar. As an adult, she lives life on the road as a traveling saleswoman (a half-attempt at character development with some pretty cringe dialogue), though she avoids her home state of Texas. When a big account comes up based in Texas, she decides to go for it, and returns to see an old friend and her father (Sam Shepard) while she’s there.

Her rapey ex-boyfriend (Adam Scott) works with her, and he becomes enraged when she is given the chance at acquiring the account over him. I’m always expecting him to step into a character like Ben Wyatt in Parks and Rec, but he was a very believable psychopath - though his character was only a small part of the overall story. He follows her to Texas to harass and ultimately harm her, but a brooding, mysterious stranger steps in and saves the day. After her run-in with this mystery man, her visions become more frequent and more detailed, and she searches for the answers to the reason behind it all.

It’s never expressly stated why she avoids her home town, or why she never visits her father, with whom she was previously close. Did her visions stop when she left Texas and only return when she came back? It was hard to tell. I was waiting for a cliched specific traumatic event reveal that would explain it, but it just never got addressed at all. Unfortunately, there were plenty of cliches to come; looking in the mirror and seeing someone else? A record playing the same song on repeat? Electronics going haywire? Home invasion? This had it all. It all came together in a clumsy hodge podge with a wholly predictable plot. Still, I had no problem watching. I cared about Joanna’s outcome and wanted to see if I was right about the reveal (I was). 

Clearly director Asif Kapadia had watched The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake from 2003 right before filming this and enjoyed it quite a bit. Though this film did not have any torture, one scene was shot for shot exactly the same as TCM, and the old house and junked cars on the property were awfully familiar. Joanna is even wearing the same outfit as Jessica Biel’s character. It was hard to determine if it was homage or just a ripoff. It seemed like he wanted to make a more digestible version of TCM - going by the house scene, the setting, and a scene at a livestock auction that was completely irrelevant to the story - but when you back off the gore and the murder, and you don’t replace it with creative ingenuity, that’s a problem.

Worth Watching?

I would compare this film most closely to Lifetime horror, which I happen to enjoy. The “scares” are mostly just tense moments and its plot and execution seem more fitted for the small screen than the silver screen. However, the abysmal rating on Rotten Tomatoes isn’t really warranted. For all its faults, it’s still very watchable - certainly not close to the worst horror movie I’ve ever seen.

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