Alejandro Amenabar’s most renowned picture is The Others – one of the more impressive, indelible horror movies this side of the millennium. But he’s failed to live up to it ever since, and his latest feature Regression sadly continues on that trend, as an underwhelming, convoluted thriller that struggles to emotionally engage its viewer, in spite of the credentials of the accomplished cast.
One of which is Ethan Hawke, who plays the hard-nosed, small town detective Bruce Kenner who becomes perilously embroiled in a case concerning a father (David Dencik) sexually abusing his teenage daughter, Angela (Emma Watson). Though handing himself in and offering a frank confession, the perpetrator has no recollection whatsoever of actually committing the crime, and so Professor Kenneth Raines (David Thewlis) is hired to assist. He wants to introduced a regression therapy to help bring those blurred memories to the forefront, and help solve this case once and for all.
With a sprinkling of the horror genre, shades of a whodunnit thriller and an overriding sense of supernatural surrealism, Amenabar’s picture suffers from a lack of true identity, seemingly unsure of exactly what it’s vying to be. Of course a combination of genres is no bad thing and filmmakers should be encouraged to not remain within the boundaries and limitations of a specific genre movie – but Amenebar is borrowing from many, and not thriving in any. It doesn’t help matters that Kenner is adamant this case can be put down to mere massy hysteria, effectively writing off the crimes from the offset, which doesn’t exactly aid our suspense. Nonetheless, the film certainly looks impressive: visually striking and unforgivingly bleak in its execution, where rainfall seems to be the most prominent weather condition.
Hawke’s the best thing about this piece too; his character represents the only intriguing angle to the narrative, as the detective has to battle against his inner demons in a slow and yet substantial decline. But it’s not enough to save this production from the several bouts of tedium that kick in – with a directionless narrative which is akin to a dog chasing its tail. It always seems to be on the brink of catching it and feeling relatively fulfilled, but instead just runs around in circles in what can only be described as an entirely futile exercise.