"Haunted by the Past"
THE RETURN is a minor psychological thriller that the studio is dumping in theaters without an advance look by critics. The studio should have had more faith in its product, because the movie is more interesting than many of the other cheap thrillers that Hollywood has been making. That said, the movie remains a minor work that will be forgotten quickly.
The movie opens with a little girl, Joanna, going to a carnival with her father. They’ve just been in a car accident, and Joanna seems to be stalked by a man associated with the accident in some way.
Years later, Joanna is a young driven saleswoman working in St. Louis. She jumps at the chance to go back to her hometown in Texas on a special assignment. There, Joanna begins having visions of the past that seem to be wrapped up in the mystery of that traffic accident. The visions have something to do with a small town named La Salle, which was near the carnival that she and her father visited years ago.
Joanna goes to La Salle to find out what happened. There, she meets an older man named Terry, whose wife was murdered the same night of the mysterious traffic accident. Joanna begins seeing visions of Terry’s dead wife, who seems to share some special kind of spiritual connection to Joanna.
THE RETURN turns out to be a mystery thriller focused on the identity of the person who murdered Terry’s wife. Terry is a prime suspect in the town, but it becomes clear that someone else is the killer. Also a mystery is why Joanna seems to be having visions of Terry’s wife on the night she was murdered, visions that seem to be related to the mysterious traffic accident years ago involving Joanna and her dad.
THE RETURN is a surprisingly effective, but unspectacular, thriller with lots of mystery and a generous amount of spooky situations. The heroine seems to be haunted by the spirit of the murdered woman, but the movie minimizes the occult nature of the heroine’s visions. There is an allusion to some kind of possession, but that is unclear. Ultimately, the heroine’s supernatural connection with the dead woman is explained in a naturalistic manner having to do with the mysterious traffic accident in the plot. The explanation is not overtly Christian, but it is not overtly anti-Christian or occult. The explanation does have, however, some positive moral connotations because it involves the love between Terry and his dead wife and the love Joanna’s father has for his daughter. In the end, the mysteries are solved, a vicious murderer gets his just desserts, and Joanna is freed from her nightmarish visions. Metaphorically speaking, both Joanna and Terry are haunted by what happened in the past. The movie’s ending relieves that trauma in a poignant manner.
THE RETURN contains brief foul language, a love scene, violence, and scenes of men stalking and attacking women, so extreme caution is warranted.
(Pa, B, O, L, VV, S, A, D, M) Mixed pagan worldview with some light moral and occult elements about a woman having visions of being stalked and woman sees images of a murdered woman and there is possible poltergeist activity in one scene, and oblique reference to being a different person that could indicate some unique form of being possessed but not in the usual way in which possession is usually meant; five obscenities (including one “f” word), three strong profanities and one light profanity; some scary violence such as man tries to force himself on woman but another man comes and pulls him off and then beats him in the street before people pull the hero off the would-be rapist, girl accidentally cuts herself with broken glass, implied self-inflicted knife wound, a few repeated images of woman being attacked and stabbed (but nothing very graphic), woman has visions of being stalked, man stabbed, woman holds knife against her stomach, men fight, men grab and drag women, car crashes into another car that is stopped, truck plunges off ravine and into small stream, and man punches another man in the throat; brief sexual content includes woman has confused vision of a man passionately kissing her while they're lying down, and she turns into the man's dead wife in a vision of some past incident, plus man tries to force himself on woman but is pulled off before anything salacious happens; no nudity; alcohol use; smoking; and, stalking, traumatized woman cuts herself, woman is a little estranged from her father because of a mysterious past trauma that has changed her, competitive salesman threatens saleswoman, and woman enters empty house after knocking and getting no answer.
THE RETURN stars Sarah Michelle Gellar as Joanna, a young woman haunted by visions of a car accident, a murder, a stalker, and a dead woman. The visions have something to do with a small town in Texas named La Salle, which was near a carnival Joanna and her father visited years ago. Joanna goes to La Salle to discover what happened. There, she meets an older man named Terry, whose wife was murdered the same night of a mysterious traffic accident involving Joanna as a little girl and her dad. Joanna begins having visions of Terry's dead wife, who seems to share some special kind of spiritual connection to Joanna.
THE RETURN is a surprisingly effective, but unspectacular, thriller with lots of mystery and a generous amount of spooky situations. The heroine seems to be haunted by the spirit of the murdered woman, but the movie minimizes the occult nature of the heroine's visions. Despite some brief negative elements requiring extreme caution, the movie contains some moral aspects and a poignant ending. The mysteries are solved, a vicious murderer gets his just desserts, and Joanna is freed from her nightmarish visions.