The Austin Chronicle

The Return

Rated PG-13, 85 min. Directed by Asif Kapadia. Starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, Peter O'Brien, Sam Shepard, Kate Beahan, Brent Smiga.

REVIEWED By Steve Davis, Fri., Nov. 17, 2006

Sarah Michelle Gellar – the scream queen for the new millennium – puts her slightly blank expression to good use in the locally filmed The Return, a supernatural thriller in which she plays a young woman living in a waking dream that is somehow connected to an unsolved murder that happened many years ago near her hometown of Luling. (Yes, that Luling.) Haunted by psychic visions that are part nightmare and part déjà vu, Gellar’s perplexed Joanna goes through most of the movie as if in a fugue state, a condition shared by the audience as it also tries to figure out what the hell is going on. Is she a ghost? Is she the reincarnation of the victim or the killer? And where are those creepy Japanese kids? To its credit, The Return ambitiously attempts to piece together clues across the time/space continuum, but Adam Sussman’s script quickly violates the cardinal rule of simplicity so essential to audience participation in resolving a movie’s central mystery. (Films such as The Sixth Sense and The Others are prime examples of how filmmakers occasionally get it right.) Because The Return melds the past and the present when Joanna has her out-of-body experiences, most confused moviegoers will conclude, at least at the outset, that more time should have been spent in the editing room to make the movie seem less disjointed. But even in its hokiest moments – the most prominent being the recurring sound of Patsy Cline singing the first lines of "Sweet Dreams" out of nowhere – The Return is a welcome antidote to most of the crap that today passes for horror and other supernaturally themed movies. And let’s not even broach the subject of the now-popular (and ethically challenged) torture genre that too frequently slimes across theatre screens these days.

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