Director: Alejandro Amenábar
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Emma Watson, David Thewlis, David Dencik, Dale Dickey, Lothaire Bluteau, Devon Bostick
Runtime: 1 hr 47 mins
Rating: NC-16 (Sexual Scenes)
Released By: Shaw
Opening Day: 3 December 2015
Synopsis: Minnesota, 1990. Detective Bruce Kenner (Ethan Hawke) investigates the case of young Angela (Emma Watson), who accuses her father, John Gray (David Dencik), of an unspeakable crime. When John unexpectedly and without recollection admits guilt, renowned psychologist Dr. Raines (David Thewlis) is brought in to help him relive his memories and what they discover unmasks a horrifying nationwide mystery.
It probably wasn’t too long ago when you came across a movie which is based on the workings of evil Satanic cults. It also probably rather recent that a film tells you that its screenplay is inspired by real life events. While statements like these seem to be convenient formulae to churn out movies (especially horror thrillers which will then go on to spawn countless sequel if the first flick takes home a decent amount of box office takings), what does this Alejandro Amenabar directed psychological thriller that promises which makes it, well, different from the others out there?
Is it Amenabar himself, who has helmed acclaimed films like Open Your Eyes (1999) and The Sea Inside (2004)? The Spanish filmmaker last made the very atmospheric The Others 14 years ago – can his latest work send chills down our spine like the Nicole Kidman horror vehicle which not only boasts of a good script, but also fine storytelling skills?
Or are fans of Emma Watson supposed to flock to the cinemas to see how the 25 actress can handle the horror genre? This role of a sexually abused girl is no Hermione Granger, for sure. Can cinema goers take her portrayal of an edgier, moodier character?
Maybe long times fans of 45 year old Ethan Hawke will lap this up instead? Hawke, who got back into the limelight with Richard Linklater’s Boyhood last year, sure can act. But can he hold this 107 minute thriller together, considering its rather uninspired storyline?
Hawke plays a hot blooded detective who is on the case of a young girl (Watson) who is accusing her father of an unspeakable crime. While the old man admits guilt, he claims that he has no recollections of what happened. Enter David Thewlis’s (The Theory of Everything, Macbeth) psychologist character who uses an unconventional method of hypnosis to help the accused man relive his memories. Along the way, we are introduced to Satanic cults and the scary things they do to common townsfolk.
There is one point in the film where Hawke mutters that he has no idea how things are progressing – this is the same sentiment we had after one hour into the movie. Things are moody throughout the movie, and there is seems to be a constant gloomy shroud over the camera lens. You can expect the usual flashback techniques, ominous dialogues and actors with creepy make up popping up every once in a while. Hawke also receives lectures from other characters about how things are not what they seem, and that evil truly does exist. Long story short – these are messages that we have heard elsewhere before.
While things can be better executed (having more action and scare scenes may help to keep your viewers interested), the cast does a commendable job bringing out the emotions of the characters. If you invest yourself emotionally throughout the film, you’ll find yourself being able to identify with their apprehensiveness, fear, cynicism and the eventual helplessness. This is not a cheery film which you’ll walk out of the theatre feeling inspired about life, for sure.
(While this gloomy thriller features a capable cast, its familiar been-there-done-that style only makes an already dreary story wearier)
Review by John Li