The Return – Should have gone straight to DVD My Reviews 18 JUL 2007

The ReturnJoanna Mills, a tough young Midwesterner, is determined to learn the truth behind the increasingly terrifying supernatural visions that have been haunting her. Joanna has made a successful career for herself, as sales representative for a trucking company. But her private life has been difficult; estranged from her father, stalked by an obsessed ex-boyfriend, and with few friends, Joanna fears that she is losing control. She sees and feels the brutal murder of a young woman she’s never met, at the hands of a heartless killer, a man who appears to be making Joanna his next target. Determined to fight back, Joanna is guided by her nightmares to the murdered woman’s hometown. Once there, she will discover that some secrets can’t be buried; some spirits never die; and that the murder she is trying to solve may be her own.

Heralded as a psychological thriller/mystery yarn, The Return was actually released in the States back in 2006 already – and for some horribly strange reason Ster Kinekor decided to release it to our local screens now. The film was received very negatively at almost all of its other worldwide releases, and it is pretty easy to see why.

Sarah Michelle Gellar (of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame) plays the lead role in this tame and rather sedate movie which really doesnt know where to place it self. Its no fright-fest and it certainly isnt much of a ghost story. Its not overly violent nor is it particularly mysterious. It kind of wallows in the middle of all these genres to be honest. The director fails horribly at installing any sense of fear, dread or even suspense, eventually having to resort to a couple of quick frame cut inserts to try and pull any sort of fright out of the audience.

The movie and story is told in a very minimalist fashion, with dialogue being fairly scarce and leaving the audience to do a lot of filling in of all the blanks. The various players in the story are introduced quickly and then cast away just as fast, leaving Sarah as having the only character of any real substance in this movie.

However, I must complement the director on the cinematography used throughout the movie. Each scene is visually stunning – every frame is perfectly lit and composed, and the characters are placed against the Texas landscapes in ways that convey a genuine sense of desolation and menace. Its a real pity that the story simply isnt good enough because it detracts from the wonderful visuals and soundtrack used throughout the movie.

At least the movie does provide us with a half decent ending though, providing a good minimalist action sequence and adequately wrapping up all the threads that the movie so drudgingly had introduced to us through the first three quarters of the movie.

To sum it up, I found it fairly boring and routine and to be honest, the movie is at most a passable time-filler, best suited to a lazy DVD afternoon.

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About Craig Lotter

South African software architect and developer at Touchwork. Husband to a cupcake baker and father to two little girls. I don't have time for myself any more.