OCTOBER 18, 2007
Few things in this world piss me off more than people who don’t understand the “stay to the right if you’re going to just stand like a lazy fuck on the escalator” rule. But one of those things is the amount of hatred I see aimed toward The Return, one of last year’s best “horror” movies. Not so much that it tanked at the box office (it was a good movie, so that was to be expected), but that people actually call it the worst film of the year (or that they’ve ever seen), in a year that gave us Dark Ride, When A Stranger Calls, and Lady In The Water (and those are just the genre movies). Come on folks, let's get real here.
The Return is actually a character drama fused with a very basic murder mystery film, with some very light supernatural elements (sort of) thrown in for good measure. I always enjoy a film that features a character trying to put the pieces of a puzzle together (here: that would be child’s artwork, an image of a barn, etc.), and watching the film a second time, it’s interesting to see how well placed the necessary information is throughout the film. I do wish that the “killer” character was introduced a bit earlier, but since there are rumors of re-shoots and re-editing (otherwise non evident in the film itself), it’s a surprise how well made it is at all.
However, it was marketed as a Grudge style scarefest. I don’t know what is more depressing: that Universal couldn’t even market the film for what it actually was, or that people are so easily duped by false advertising that they would blame the film itself instead of the marketing department who sold them a different movie. And the film’s horrendous box office didn’t teach Universal any lessons – the DVD tries even HARDER to get you to believe it’s a spookfest, with all of the extras listed as “Too terrifying for theaters” and the like. The alternate ending is almost identical to the (non-horror) one in the theatrical, only with the addition of a baby being born. SHOCKING! TERRIFYING!!!!
Even if you just REALLY wanted to jump at the image of a ghostly Asian child every 5 minutes for no reason, you’d have to admit that, if nothing else, The Return offers some downright fantastic cinematography, resulting in one of the best LOOKING horror films of the year. Perfectly capturing the cold, dry look of Texas in the fall/winter, the look of the film alone elevates it above any of the films Universal tried to compare it to. Much like Friday Night Lights, the film cannot be mistaken for any other area in the US, and puts films/shows that try to fake Texas directly into shame. Oddly, just as I was thinking “I wonder if any of the crew from FNL worked on this”, a familiar face appeared on screen:
Buddy Garrity! Love that guy. I think I also spied one of the assistant coach guys in the film’s one “action” scene before the finale, in which a fake Josh Holloway beats up a fake Ashton Kutcher that tried to nail the actual Sarah Michelle Gellar (and can’t say I blame him – with her brunette hair, she looks better than ever in this movie, another reason why I am dumbfounded it went entirely ignored in theaters). Good ol Friday Night Lights.
Speaking of Gellar, the film’s most nonsensical moment comes not during the “either you buy into it or you don’t” ending, but when her age is said to be 25. Come on now. She looked 25 when she was supposed to be 20 on Buffy.
Another beauty in this film is Kate Beahan, who has the unfortunate distinction of being in two of the most idiotic films of all time – Flightplan and The Wicker Man remake. While Wicker was at least hilariously bad, with Cage’s all time most delirious performance (“How’d it get burned HOWDITGETBURNED?!?!?!?”), Flightplan is a shockingly bad bore of a film. Naturally, she finally gets a part (though a very brief one, her and Sam Shepard basically disappear from the film after about 20 minutes or so) in a good film, and no one sees it.
Well whatever, folks are always going to hate it because it doesn’t fake scare them. Their loss. I really dig the movie and it held up well on a 2nd viewing. If you haven’t seen it yet, I urge you to ignore the marketing and just watch it for what it is.
What say you?