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Regression

Year: 2015
Production Co: Mod Productions
Director: Alejandro Amenábar
Writer: Alejandro Amenábar
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Emma Watson, David Thewlis

Something about this movie – the tone, the mood, maybe just the script – made me think of the rash of issues movies dressed up as procedural cop thrillers with vaguely threatening supernatural backdrops from the 80s and 90s.

Besides the dusty small town locale and secret society vibe, it even has at its heart a dedicated but play-by-his-own-rules detective following a case deeper into a rabbit hole that has his questioning his own sanity at one point but doggedly determined to crack it.

It's the sort of thing that seems like it could have been filmed around the early 90s as well set there, because it doesn't add anything you haven't already seen in a hundred similar movies from the period.

In this case, it's set amid the national panic in America around Satanic cults and the abuse they exacted on young, vulnerable members like Angela (Emma Waston). Kenner (Hawke) is investigating the case of the pious young woman, who's run away to live at her church amid claims her father and several other people came to her bedroom and raped her in the night.

Her father, a seemingly loving man, is convincing in his assertion that he doesn't remember what happened, telling Kenner he fears there are darker truths at the heart of the case. Both he and his now estranged daughter vaguely remember black-clad figures and bizarre rituals.

Kenner enlists the help of psychoanalyst Raines (David Thewlis), who subjects Angela to several sessions of regression – hypnotising her and taking her back to relive the incidents in the hope it will turn up some clues about what really happened.

It all goes on for far too long and it's all far too melodramatic and dour for anything to really stand out, and when the big twist comes near the end it even further cements the seeming desire by writer/director Alejandro Amenábar to make a throwback TV movie – it's the kind of denouement these thing used to traffic heavily in.

It's not scary, thrilling or dramatic enough to even register among other movies – even other examples of the genre back when it used to be a thing – and despite Hawke's talent in certain styles and genres (like the Before films), he never quite convinces as the clean cut, stoic hero type like he's trying to be here.

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