Return (2006) (Ws Dub Sub Ac3 Dol)
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THE RETURN (WIDESCREEN EDITION) MOVIE
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Fastforward to the present. Joannna is an upwardly mobile adult in sales, constantly on the road and the fast track to success. She makes a business trip in another city and sees an old friend. While there, she has a series of strange visions and blacks out. Her friend finds her later, passed out on the bathroom floor with a large self-inflicted wound on her forearm.
While trying to make sense of this disturbing behavior and the visions, Joanna ends up in La Salle, Texas. In La Salle, she finds the same buildings and places that she has already seen in her visions, giving her an unsettling sense of deja vu.
I won't reveal anymore, but THE RETURN is well worth your time. It is 90 minutes of suspense, the supernatural and ultimately, a ghostly love story that defies time. The theatical ending was good, but check out the alternate ending on the DVD special features. It made everything so much more crystal clear and I think that the film would've been so much more successful if Hollywood higher ups would used that ending instead of the one they did.
But still, watch THE RETURN. It's well worth your time!!!
The film starts at an amusement park. A father (Sam Shepherd) and his daughter Joanna have just been in a car accident. Almost immediately, the girl begins acting strangely, seeing a mysterious man who isn't there. All he wants to do is talk to her. This may seem bizarre at first, but it gives you the first clue to an unfolding story about a woman running from her past.
As an adult, Joanna (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is a salesperson. She likes her job because it keeps her ahead of whatever evil seems to be chasing her. Even though she has sworn off territory in Texas, she changes her mind. This trip brings her into contact with an old friend and her father. The longer she remains in Texas, the more her strange "visions" or dreams take hold of her. She eventually finds herself pulled to La Salle, Texas, where she encounters a man whose wife was murdered years before.
I won't reveal the ending, but suffice it to say that the reason some viewers may be having trouble deciphering this film is because it is rooted in Eastern religion. Life isn't linear, but cyclical.
I found the film to be deeply moving. Sure, the pacing is languid like the Texas heat, but it allows the story to unfold. There also isn't a heavy metal soundtrack and young photo-perfect pin-ups crying while some masked madman tortures and then kills them.
Horror film fanatics seem to fall into two camps: those who like axe wielding maniacs and those who like atmospheric ghost stories. I prefer the latter. To be honest, my stomach was in knots throughout "The Return," because the director creates an undeniable sense of doom.
If you enjoy Japanese or Korean horror films - heavy on atmosphere and unsettling imagery - you'll enjoy "The Return." If your cup of tea is "Texas Chainsaw Massacre", you'll do yourself a favor and skip this one.
An oddly aged Sarah Michelle Gellar plays our lead, the tormented Joanna Mills. Gellar is filmed in harsh, unflattering light and spends much of the film looking confused (and rightfully so). It turns out that the decision to frame her in such ashen tones was deliberate and, given the movie's twist, well-advised. Not so smart was the decision to have her walk around in an ineffectual daze while she sees people who aren't there, revisits locales she's never seen before (?), and watches her eye color flicker from brown to blue. Gellar's Joanna is hardly there at all.
Also absent in the film are any elements of suspense or tension. The story tries to use things like an aggressively lecherous coworker (the shrew-faced Adam Scott) and a repeated bar from Patsy Cline's "Sweet Dreams" to spur the suspense. It's hard, though, to prickle the spine when a viewer has no idea what exactly they're supposed to be afraid of.
Movies with the requisite twist only really work when the audience is led to believe something erroneous and then has that misconception yanked out from under them. "The Return" leads you to believe nothing, asking instead that the well-executed ambience be enough reason to stick with the script's senselessness in the hopes that the pay-off will be enough to justify over an hour of quiet confusion.
The pay-off, to be clear, is well-done. It brings to the story a cohesiveness that is almost enjoyable. It is the sort of "Ohhhhh!" moment that gives meaning to every mystifying element that came before it. The story, in light of this, is well-written.
But it is not well-done. The movie is only good in retrospect, but not from front-to-back. The presence of an always-excellent Sam Shepard and the excellent closure of the conclusion don't make up for the mind-numbing (and confusing) clap-trap that makes up 95% of the viewing experience. "The Return" is artistic, tightly plotted, and composed of interesting ideas. But it's still not that great.