Written and directed by Alejandro Amenábar, Regression is a psychological thriller revolving around a detective, Bruce Kenner (Ethan Hawke), tasked with investigating a sexual abuse case in a small Minnesota town in 1990. The case initially seems clear cut as John Gray (David Dencik), the father of the 17-year-old victim, Angela (Emma Watson), turned himself in and confessed to the crime. However, the fact that he has no memory of committing the assault complicates matters. Discovering a possible link between John and a Satanic cult, Kenner soon finds himself traveling down a dark rabbit hole where the line between fiction and reality become increasingly blurred.
Aiding Kenner with the case is Professor Kenneth Raines (David Thewlis), who is sort of the film’s Greek chorus as well as the smartest guy in the room. Brought in to decipher whether or not John has any regressive memories, Raines’ theories and analysis provide Regression with some of its most enthralling moments. One strong sequence in particular involves Raines and Kenner interrogating Angela’s grandmother, Rose (Dale Dickey), and her estranged brother, Roy (Devon Bostick), about the claims of abuse and Satanic rituals. It is in the latter where the film starts to get messy.
Amenábar wants Regression to be both a commentary on the hysteria around Satanic cults and a mystery about sexual abuse, however, it does not satisfy on either front. It’s not just script that has numerous faults, but the film also falters due to the fact that Amenábar tries to do too much within the film.
In attempting to evoke a sense of ambiguity around Angela’s claims, it become impossible for the audience to sympathize with her plight the way the director clearly wants them to. Furthermore, despite some interesting lighting choices by cinematographer Daniel Aryano, Regression tries too hard to create an eerie sense of horror. Frankly, a good portion of it just ends up coming off as rather ridiculous, especially when factoring in a key, but badly-executed, plot point that occurs late in the film.
Emma Watson and Ethan Hawke provide some solid work in the film but, like much of the film’s supporting cast, with the exception being Thewlis who is by far the standout, they ultimately cannot surmount the weight of Regression’s poorly constructed script. Despite its intriguing premise, the film never capitalizes on its setup in an interesting way. Alejandro Amenábar has made some great films in his career, but Regression is not one of them.
© thevoid99 2016