Satanic Ritual Abuse.
You just don’t see that term thrown around as much these days. But back in the 80s and 90s, it made the news cycle a few times. While the term terrorized Christians throughout the United States, it introduced me to some pretty cool horror movies that I wouldn’t have known about. I can clearly remember discovering Hellraiser after Geraldo Rivera dedicated an episode of his talk show to the topic. As the clips were shown, my parents looked away in disgust as I was thrilled to see anything horror related.
Satanic ritual abuse was the assertion that bands of satanic cults roamed this country. These cults would abuse women and children and sacrifices were quite common. While little evidence exists that these cults existed, the assertions live on. And it’s here that Regression plays with its audience. Written and directed by Alejandro Amenabar, Regression claims to be based on real events. Like the assertions, this can’t be verified. To double down on this phenomenon, Amenabar also focuses on a strange pseudo-science called regression therapy. Basically, if you can’t quite remember something, then a doctor can place you under hypnosis to remember. Unfortunately, this therapy is highly suspect as the patient is quite open to suggestions on memories from his/her surroundings. The film stars Emma Watson, Ethan Hawke, and Dale Dickey (who I was lucky enough to sit down with regarding the movie).
With such a star studded cast, you can’t help but be impressed. Amenabar is probably best remembered for 2001’s The Others (Nicole Kidman). He knows his way around the camera and the use of light in Regression is pretty awesome. Thematically, though, the movie struggles. It’s not sure what it wants to be and this leads to some interesting angles as a viewer. I guess that part of me still wants to find a double (more open-ended) meaning behind its third act but it’s really kind of cut and dry. While the first two acts build to a crescendo, it’s disappointing as to where the film ultimately ends. But I guess the same can be said for how our main character (Hawke) lands as well: disturbed with the whole situation.
But maybe that’s what the viewer was supposed to experience?
Hawke does not do a bad job portraying Detective Bruce Kenner. Kenner is assigned to a case where a teenage girl (Emma Watson as Angela) accuses her father of raping her. Unfortunately, her father cannot recall what happened and they rely on regression therapy in order to get the “memory” from his mind. After accusing another police officer of the rape, Angela is subjected to regression therapy and informs the officers of a satanic cult that eats babies. Hawke’s main duty in the film is to portray the confusion he is experiencing. From an outside perspective, it’s easy to make the call as to where this movie is going to end. However, Hawke and Amenabar portray hope well when Kenner is on an upswing emotionally and can be quite mysterious to build the mood and plot when necessary.
Watson is captivating in the innocent victim role. The camera loves her and she is asked to do no more than to be the innocent victim initially. However, as the film goes on, she comes out of her shell and we see a more tempting side of her. Throughout, she still manages to keep her innocence.
And, I guess for me at least, that’s why I feel so lost with the end. Angela and Bruce were both very decent characters. The mood and plots simmers throughout and the payoff is just too convenient. I guess it just felt too over-explained. The pieces just all fell together too rapidly. I still don’t know whether this was the intention though or just a happy coincidence.
I wouldn’t skip out on Regression. It’s quite watchable. It’s beautifully shot and the performances are pretty good. It’s an uncomfortable watch because of its topics and mood. Check it out.