Satanic chiller Regression, starring Ethan Hawke and Emma Watson, is the latest work from The Others helmer Alejandro Amenábar .
Focusing on the growing hysteria of Satanism in 1990s America, this ‘inspired by true events’ tale focuses on a small town in Minnesota which is rocked by accusations of satanic sexual abuse. Hawke’s Detective Bruce Kenner leads a case involving the sweet and innocent Angela Gray (Watson) who has accused her memory-deprived drunk of a father, John (David Dencik), of said crime. With the help of psychologist Dr. Raines (David Thewlis) and his controversial therapeutic methods, Kenner looks to get to the bottom of this increasingly disturbing situation.
Amenábar’s thought-provoking return to the thriller genre ramps up the paranoia factor; focusing less on the mythology of Satanism and more on its aftershock which centres around Hawke’s increasingly hysterical detective as he succumbs to the details of a gruelling case.
Cloaked devil worshippers, blood splattering sacrifices and an alcohol drenched-Grandmother dose proceedings in a squirmish coating of sinisterness, yet beyond the face-painted devil worshippers and their baby killing antics, the scariest thing about the film is its portrayal of the human mind. Our brains are funny ol’ things; the power of suggestion can be immense as the Thewlis-Hawke hypno-interrogations demonstrate.
However, Regression couldn’t consistently capture the same shit-scared level of paranoia that Hawke – baggy eyed and thoroughly rugged – lays down one sweat-inducing nightmare at a time. The Boyhood star’s sharpish descent into a babbling, sleep-deprived mess makes for entertaining viewing, though the disappointment being – given the interesting, if not very controversial, subject matter at hand – that Amenábar’s effort couldn’t quite hit the same levels of intensity in other areas.
The occasional foray into the unruly world of tin eared dialogue and the odd blip into satanic clichés (you’ve got to have a controlling priest in there, right?) can not distract from Hawke’s – and that of his quietly captivating co-star, Watson – performance in this devilishly intriguing thriller.