If there is anything worse than a bad movie, it is a movie with potential that just isn’t realized. That is the case with Sarah Michelle Gellar’s latest big screen movie “The Return.” First of all, it is apparent that Gellar is now pigeon holed as nothing but a scream queen. At this point, I’m beginning to wonder if that is, indeed, all she will ever be on the big screen. Maybe it is time for her to try a TV return. Her latest Hollywood efforts have gotten increasingly worse. And that is coming from a big fan of “Buffy, The Vampire Slayer.”
The focus of “The Return” is a twenty-something girl names Joanna Mills. To say she’s a little strange is a major understatement. This girl is borderline psychotic. She cuts herself from time to time, supposedly to escape the so-called visions that she has. I guess we are supposed to suspend disbelief that her father and friends would have allowed this behavior without seeking help on her behalf. Frankly, it simply doesn’t ring very true.
The movie begins as 11-year-old Joanna and her father are at a state fair. She is acting her usual strange self. Even strangers are posing the question to her father, “Is she all right?” He explains that they were involved in a serious car accident recently and that Joanna’s personality has altered since then.
At about the same time as he is explaining his daughter’s weird behavior, she is taking off; having seen a strange man that scares her. She hides under a booth table but the man finds her telling her he just wants to talk to her. She breaks a bottle and begins cutting herself, presumably for the first time. Joanna is found by her father who scoops her up in his arms and asks what happened. All she says is “there was a man.”
The movie then jumps to present day where we see Joanna (Gellar) as a young adult. She is headed back to her home state Texas to approach a new customer for her business. Along the way, however, she begins to experience strange things. She sees another face in the mirror where hers is supposed to be. Her pickup radio insists on playing the song “Sweet Dreams,” and she keeps picturing sequences where she encounters a strange man who calls her sunshine and says that he just wants to talk to her.
Determined to get whatever has haunted her life, Joanna heads to a town that she supposedly has never visited. Yet, she knows the local bar, recognizes one of the locals, and continues to experience weird happenings. That is as much as I can tell you without spoiling the whole movie. However, trust me when I say that it had so much unrealized potential.
There are so many problems with this film that it is difficult to know where to begin, but I’ll certainly give it the old college try. First of all, the movie is paced way too slowly. That seems to be a trend that is going on in Hollywood recently. I can’t count the number of recent films that I have seen that suffer from the same thing. I suppose the intent is for dramatic pause. However, the result is boredom.
The screenplay is poorly written, making very little sense at all. The concept is so good that in the right hands this could have been a first-rate thriller. However, in the hands of Adam Sussman it fails to achieve any thrill, chill, or anything else positive. The characters are so shallow that the audience could actually care less what happens to any one of them.
If anything is worse than the screenplay, it is the direction. Director Asif Kapadia appears to have no idea what to do with this film, its screenplay, or it actors. Everything is lifeless about this film: the actors, the sets, the cinema photography, and the music.
I’ve already said that Gellar is a big disappointment. She phoned in this performance. There was absolutely no life in her character. Even worse, there was absolutely no soul. Sam Shepard as her father was significantly better but his role was unfortunately small. Peter O’Brien, as Terry Stahl – – the man she doesn’t know whether or not to trust – – is unappealing as a leading man. And J.C. Mackenzie as her would be stalker is not the least bit menacing or scary.
“The Return” is produced by Rogue Pictures in conjunction with Intrepid Pictures, Raygun and Biscayne Pictures, is one hour and 25 long minutes in length and carries a PG-13 for violence, supposed terror, and disturbing adult content.
The DVD, which was released today, has the following bonus features:
- An alternate ending supposedly too shocking for the big screen.
- A featurette on the making of the film in terms of the “creation of a nightmare.”
- Deleted scenes: The terror you not seen in the final production.
Sorry guys, I give this one only one star. It’s that bad!