Friday, 7 January 2022

The Return (2020) - Horror Film Review

The Return
is going to be a hard film to review, namely that mid film it completely shifts genres, but to say how and why would ruin the surprise. Directed and co-written by BJ Verot (After the Rain) in his feature length directorial debut this horror uses one of my favourite ideas and becomes quite mind bending.

After his father dies of a heart attack, Rodger (Richard Harmon - The 100 TV series, Bates Motel TV series) returns to his childhood home in order to get his affairs in order. Along for the trip is his girlfriend Beth (Sara Thompson - also The 100 TV series) and his life long best friend, Jordan (Echo Andersson). Soon Rodger begins to see a ghostly smoky black figure around the house and after some investigating discovers it may be linked to a similar occurrence he had back when he was a child, something that may have led to the death of his sister at the time.

First things first, the smoky black ghost is obviously a CG creation, it never quite fits the environments it appears in with an artificial look to it. Get past this though and The Return becomes an enjoyable mystery that while at first cliché and predictable goes into riviting territory due to the shift in genres at the midway point. It seems strange to say, but with a film with quite a small cast there were still one too many characters, namely Beth. This character adds absolutely zero to the story, her inclusion as Rodgers girlfriend seemed to be there just to create some mild conflict, due to Jordan appearing to be secretly in love with Rodger. She does pretty much nothing before just walking out the film halfway through and never returning. It seemed it was only after this point that The Return really found its feet, bringing the wonderful friendship to the forefront, mostly comfortable just to leave it as exactly that, a friendship. While Rodger is made out to be very intelligent, the two share a bond both from being friends for so long, but also with the same type of sarcastic humour they share, something that before Beth's inglorious exit, bothered her.

A film of two halves then, split between horror and sci-fi. Everything happens as you may expect in a supernatural film, the CG smoke ghost appearing randomly to scare the trio, slowly ramping up its actions. Plenty of scenes of the friends researching while traditional sounding 'investigating' music plays. This can be seen in so many horror films of this type. Where this comes into its own is with the sci-fi element added in, something which makes earlier scenes make a whole lot more sense, with clues literally hidden in the background. Along the way there are mini found footage segments, the last video recordings of Jordan's father before his untimely passing. You also get a variety of flashback sequences to show what Rodger saw when he was haunted as a child, these feed back into the present day in a satisfying manner. The horror is very slight, the ghost seems to like dragging people around more than anything, this is nearly entirely a totally bloodless affair, outside of one small carpet burn, but you don't always need ultraviolence to make for an engaging film.

The Return looked like it was going to be a very generic affair, personally I loved where this ended up going, it is always a fascinating concept to me, especially when it is done well. It also helped that the friendship between the two protagonists felt natural, it is the first horror film I've seen in a while where the characters aren't totally hateable, makes all the difference. Look past the somewhat subpar CG effects and this became entertaining. The Return is due for release on 16th May from High Fliers Films.


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