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The Return review

Posted in Slashley Reviews by Neal at 22:22, Aug 16 2021

The Return: conception of a horror and sci-fi love child.
Film Review by Ashley Turner

"The Return" trailer

The Return is a supernatural thriller written by Ken Janssens and BJ Verot, directed by BJ Verot; starring Richard Harmon, Echo Andersson, and Sara Thompson.

Synopsis: “Rodger returns home from college with two friends to settle the affairs of his recently deceased father. They begin to experience weird and unsettling occurrences in the house. Rodger is soon plagued by strange childhood memories about a haunting by a ghostly presence. These memories boil over into reality culminating in an intense showdown with the terror that has come back.”

The Return opens on a heavily vignette-blurred scene with intentional jump cuts used to create an immediately unsettling and surreal tone. Although I was initially unsure how to feel about this specific style, I eventually accepted and embraced it as it became the identifier for flashbacks throughout the film. The style not only evoked an atmosphere of discomfort, but also appeared to be a direct visual representation of the protagonist’s painful suppressed memories.

The storyline, while a solid, engaging, and fun concept, had so many complicated layers that finally get tied together with a limited amount of time left for processing and connecting, that the audience may need a rewatch to completely grasp the film.

Visual FX throughout the film felt a bit mismatched and caused quite a bit of a disconnect for me. While the literally-inside-out character of Debbie was absolutely horrific and seemed to be created with the amazing use of practical effects; the murderous wraith-like CGI-generated figure in the home came across a bit cartoonish and created almost the feel of a Goosebumps-inspired movie. My stomach absolutely turned with delightful alarm every time Debbie made an appearance. The two contrasting styles of the monsters felt a bit like I was watching two separate films at times.

An extremely solid cast helped drive the film and overall investment of the storyline, despite the moments of disconnect. Echo Andersson absolutely shines as the spunky character of Jordan. She delivered in each and every scene, bringing that much needed spark to create that balance necessary within such a somber, and slightly monotonous, film. She easily becomes the most likable person on screen early on, and one cannot help but wonder what she’s doing pining away over such a moody and awkward protagonist, when she clearly has a bright future in some tech-savvy field, or as an absurdly wealthy hacker. Either way, I would totally want her as my firecracker best friend. Richard Harmon and Sara Thompson complete the trio with strong acting, believable chemistry, and an overall balance that sells the subplots within the film.

Overall, the film’s settings and execution are familiar and reminiscent of most haunting-related movies; but the filmmakers use those trope-expected assumptions against the viewer to deliver an effective “Aha!” sci-fi twist. If you choose to commit to the film and push through the various moments of disbelief; truly allow yourself to suspend expectations and be taken along the timeline of this haunting journey. The poetic ending may just be worth the time.

Director BJ Verot interview

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