First things first, the blurb attached to Regression is misleading. Having just read the plot descriptor on the back of the DVD, you’d be under the impression that you’re about to watch a fairly standard psychological thriller with an above-standard cast. Emma Watson plays a teenager who alleges that her father abused her. But with nobody capable of remembering the incident properly, Ethan Hawke’s small town cop turns to experimental regression therapy to uncover the truth.
You may be bracing at this point for shocking revelations, lies and plot twists. They’re there, but from the second Regression starts, you realise you’re watching something a tad different from what’s expected. Immediately you’re bombarded with a message that the film is based on true events, and it’s about secret Satanic cults.
From this point, Regression’s tone is set. It’s dark, it’s unsettling and it’s emotionally intense. Or, rather, it tries to be these things.
Certainly the movie delivers some very disturbing imagery as it strains to establish itself as a paranoia-driven supernatural tale akin to Rosemary’s Baby. The problem is that things never seem to really go anywhere, just like Hawke’s investigation in the film. He can’t find any concrete proof of the Satanists, and the movie sets into a spiral of mounting self-doubt, distrust and hysteria. As this cycle repeats for multiple characters, it becomes tedious. This is especially true if you’re a genre-savvy viewer waiting for the inevitable reveal that will cause everything to make sense, and once more ground all the paranormal nonsense in reality.
Regression isn’t without pedigree. Hawke and Watson give committed performances, and the supporting cast – including David Thewlis as a psychologist – provide strong backup. Then there’s The Others’ Alejandro Amenábar behind the camera as director and writer.
It’s clear what Amenábar is trying to do with Regression. It’s pretty much a comment on collective hysteria, and how self-destructive fear stemming from Faith can be. However, as in his last big release, Agora – which laid into religion as limiting human progress – Amenábar delivers his message with a sledgehammer. Forget regression. As the director stresses his point over and over AND OVER, all you want as an already-sceptical viewer is story progression.
Ultimately, Regression is a decent enough watch. It’s interesting, and if you like the stars you’ll want to see it. It’s just a pity that for all the intrigue it offers, it becomes so quickly tiresome. Mediocre.
Regression is out now on Ster Kinekor DVD.
Last Updated: October 19, 2016