Review: The Return

A straightforward ghost story whose nonsensicality—unlike most J-horror thrillers—doesn’t seem to be intentional.

The Return

Sarah Michelle Gellar may have ditched The Grudge franchise, but her predilection for illogical horror continues with The Return, a straightforward ghost story whose nonsensicality—unlike most J-horror thrillers—doesn’t seem to be intentional. Gellar is restless traveling businesswoman Joanna, who, as a child, freaked out at a carnival over an imaginary stalker and is now plagued by frightening hallucinations, recollections that aren’t her own, and a mirror image in which each of her eyes is a different color. The truth about her disconcerting situation resides in La Salle, Texas, a rural town close to where her lonely father Ed (Sam Sheppard) lives, as well as home to a mysterious Red Bar about which she dreamt. Upon visiting the watering hole, Joanna is accosted by a co-worker who appears out of nowhere, and is then rescued by an enigmatic stud named Terry (Peter O’Brien), who looks like a poor man’s version of Lost’s Sawyer. How the film’s various components are related doesn’t become clear until the very end, as director Asif Kapadia, working from Adam Sussman’s prosaic script, chops up his story with lots of random (if elegantly shot) flashbacks while withholding crucial information until the last possible second. With not a scare in sight and Joanna proving to be merely a cipher on an uninteresting mission to fill in the gaps in her blank head, The Return quickly becomes tedious before, at story’s conclusion, it turns out to be pedestrian and preposterous as well. It’s hard to get worked up over the film’s overwhelming ridiculousness, however, when there’s never a sense throughout Joanna’s sluggish supernatural trip down memory lane that there’s anything important hanging in the balance.

Score: 
 Cast: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Sam Shepard, Peter O'Brien, Darrian McClanahan, Brad Leland, Adam Scott  Director: Asif Kapadia  Screenwriter: Adam Sussman  Distributor: Rogue Pictures  Running Time: 85 min  Rating: PG-13  Year: 2006  Buy: Video, Soundtrack

Nick Schager

Nick Schager is the entertainment critic for The Daily Beast. His work has also appeared in Variety, Esquire, The Village Voice, and other publications.

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