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  Return, The Memories of Murder
Year: 2007
Director: Asif Kapadia
Stars: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Peter O’Brien, Sam Shepard, Adam Scott, Kate Beahan, J.C. Mackenzie, Erinn Allison, Darrian McClanahan, Frank Ertl
Genre: Horror, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Tormented by supernatural visions of a young woman’s brutal murder, Joanna Mills (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is drawn to the victim’s home town of La Salle, Texas. Estranged from her father (Sam Shepard) and stalked by an obsessed ex-boyfriend (Adam Scott), Joanna has her own demons. In La Salle, she becomes involved with Terry (Peter O’Brien) a mysterious outsider with strong connections both to the murder and to Joanna’s own, traumatic past.

Asif Kapadia’s follow-up to his award-winning The Warrior (2002) strives to be a classier kind of supernatural thriller, rather than the Ring knock-off or slasher clone audiences might expect it to be. His carefully framed anamorphic compositions and bleached out cinematography suggest an attempt to marry the pseudo-Hitchcockian trickery of What Lies Beneath (2000) with the psychological claustrophobia of Roman Polanski’s, peerless, Repulsion (1965).

Sam Shepard’s weighty presence amidst the cast clues you in to what The Return really is: a dust-bowl drama trying to shake off its horror movie skin. The end result is neither fish nor fowl, but woefully anaemic both as drama and supernatural thriller. Viewers interested in the dramatic angle - Joanna’s childhood trauma and abusive ex - will struggle wading through the mistimed shocks and a screeching soundtrack that does not just underline the scares - it double-underlines them in case you’re too stupid to realise what’s happening on-screen is really, really scary. Meanwhile, horror fans will be under whelmed by a distinct lack of thrills.

On the plus side, Kapadia and D.P. Roman Osmin capture the breadth, beauty and unsettling nature of the Texan landscape and a capable cast do their best to breathe life into characters whose complex relationships appear to have been curtailed in the finished film. Peter O’Brien does the strong and silent act well, but viewers of a certain age are likely to keep thinking: “Hey, that’s Shane from Neighbours!”

Through seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sarah Michelle Gellar demonstrated she was a bright, gifted, formidable talent. It seemed like the perfect calling card to film producers, but her movie career still hasn’t taken off. She gives her all in The Return, but is let down by the lethargy that surrounds this whole enterprise. Like his leading lady, Asif Kapadia is a distinctive talent, poorly served by such run-of-the-mill material. Here’s hoping they both move on to better things.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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