Published Apr 15, 2016In 1980, Canadian psychiatrist Lawrence Pazder and his eventual wife Michelle Smith published Michelle Remembers, a future bestseller about her repressed memories that, reportedly, proved there was a nationwide conspiracy involving children and satanic ritual abuse. Although their allegations were discredited over time and no evidence was found to support her recollections — or similar instances with other people thereafter — the book would cause a moral panic that eventually spread worldwide. It seeped well into the 1990s, and still crops up in some societies today.
That's the subject of Chilean filmmaker Alejandro Amenábar's (The Others, Open Your Eyes) latest movie Regression, a creepy, psychological thriller that finds the director returning to the kinds of scary subject matter that started his career.
Ethan Hawke stars as Bruce Kenner, a Minnesota detective who's tasked with investigating the sexual abuse of a teenage girl named Angela Gray (Emma Watson). What he uncovers is a complex web of false memories and contradictory information involving the police, the media and the church, with all of them pointing to a secret satanic organization being the root of Angela's problems and those of other victims like her.
Inspired in part by Rosemary's Baby, Marathon Man and similar classic thrillers of that nature, Regression certainly has chilling tone down pat (most of the movie looks particularly ominous and imposing thanks to some interesting post-production, which gives it a dark and hazy hue, while Evil Dead composer Roque Baños' score will send chills down your spine with its staccato strings and surprising sound jolts), but doesn't always deliver. It's a smart story, but too many unmemorable characters and their vague, disparate connections to one another bog it down.
Fans of today's frightening features may find the film loses its steam in the final act, when the pieces come together and things turn out to be not as scary as they initially seemed, but for those who share reverence for the classics, Regression's neo-noir looks and eerie atmosphere should keep you up for at least a couple of nights.