A detective and a psychoanalyst uncover evidence of a satanic cult while investigating the rape of a young woman.
“Regression” so badly wants to join the elite club of Satanic cult movies. Titles such as “Rosemary’s Baby,” “The Devil Rides Out,” and “Race with the Devil” come to mind and while “Regression” does have a lot going for it, a top-notch cast, eerie locales, and a beautiful-looking film, sadly, it is missing the one thing a movie of this genre requires: legitimate scares. There are a few genuinely creepy moments but they are quickly brushed aside so that the film’s protagonist, scowling and skeptical detective Bruce Kenner (Ethan Hawke), can glare and grimace at anybody and anything that doesn’t conform to his way of thinking.
As the story begins, John Gray (David Dencik) makes his way to the police station in the center of town, where he is questioned by Police Chief Cleveland (Peter MacNeill), as to why his daughter Angela (Emma Watson) has moved out of his home and into the town church. When Cleveland informs John that she is accusing him of sexual abuse, John quickly admits to it and is put in jail. Detective Bruce Jenner is assigned to the case and he makes his way out to John’s house in the country where his mother Rose (Dale Dickey), and Angela’s grandmother, lives. When asked by Jenner if she knew about the abuse, she claims that her son is innocent and says no more.
At the outset, it appears to be an open-and-shut case, with the accused already behind bars but gradually, as Jenner talks to Angela, she begins telling him that her father is part of some sort of cult, where they call upon Satan himself and that animals and babies have been used as sacrificial offerings. Both Angela and her father claim they can only remember sporadic moments and that everything else is a haze. Initially apprehensive, the police bring in a psychoanalyst, Kenneth Raines (David Thewlis), who uses Regression, an experimental technique that can help individuals regain lost memories. As Raines and Jenner continue with the investigation, they discover that years earlier, the FBI did their own investigation into a supposed Satanic cult in the area but nothing ever came of it.
Jenner feels empathy for Angela and as they begin to talk more and more and become closer together, she warns him that because of his continued interest in the case, those from the cult are more than likely watching him and that he is probably already marked for death. She cautions him of tell-tale signs, phone calls in the middle of the night and then hanging up, people staring at him, nightmares, and lo and behold, he begins experiencing them all. It is at this point that the atmosphere of dread and apprehension that has been so prevalent, slowly begins to dissipate and the story falls apart.
As the finale unspools, what started out as a genuinely interesting case history, quickly turns into psychobabble as we are told that while a Satanic cult might be real, and may indeed live in the area, Angela’s story is fake. After years of her father’s alcoholism, and blaming him for her mother’s accidental death, she decides to fabricate a story about her father being part of a cult after hearing about it on the news, thereby drawing all attention away from her and onto her father and the supposed cult. For scenes where characters, most importantly, Bruce, experience horrible nightmares where they are subjected to the cult and their various bloody practices, only to wake up and not be able to differentiate between reality and fiction, the film tries to compare it to the power of suggestion, a sort of mass induced hysteria that states if enough people are continuously told about something, they will eventually start to believe in it. I never once bought this aspect and felt that the filmmakers should have instead, gone with an actual cult, that would have been more frightening and unnerving.
As the final credits began to roll, I felt cheated and deceived, almost like the filmmakers ran out of ideas and decided to throw an absolutely ludicrous ending into the mix, just to shake things up a little. Instead of being greeted with a genuine “Oh my God” realization, accompanied by gasps of shock and awe, its arrival, alternatively, was met with copious amounts of eye-rolling and dizzying head-shaking. With such a talented cast and crew on display, it’s hard to believe that something which started out so auspiciously, could wind up so unimaginative.
Available on Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD & On Demand May 10th
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