In Resurrection, Rebecca Hall plays Margaret, a successful career woman with a stable job at a growing biotech company whose life is interrupted when a figure from her past—nonchalantly spotted at a work conference—throws her into a panic of such intense proportions that she flees as if in a trance. After some teasing ambiguity, the man (Tim Roth), is revealed to be David, an ex-boyfriend, but not of the usual sad-sack variety. Apparently, David did something so terrible to Margaret in her youth that 22-year-old memories come bubbling up as if they’d been minted yesterday. For his sophomore feature, writer-director Andrew Semans sets the dial somewhere between drama and horror, and the result is moderately intense and involving before it completely jumps the rails on its way to a bloody conclusion.
The narrative screws slowly tighten as Margaret, a single mother of a teenager (Grace Kaufman), takes increasingly extreme measures to protect herself and her daughter from David, who begins to re-exert a Satanic control over her mind and emotions. Predictable situations follow, including a fruitless plea for police protection, growing concern of both the daughter and the co-worker (Michael Esper) with whom Margaret is having an affair, and the increasingly heated confrontations with the antagonist. There is care and attention paid to subdued lighting and quietly unsettling camera angles that make these early scenes work despite their familiarity.
Compelling hook and escalating stakes notwithstanding, Resurrection falters as a psychological drama and suffocates as a social statement. Semans seems to be reaching for a universal proclamation on the ways in which trauma continues to manifest itself in the present. Like many recent entries in the emergent “elevated horror” genre, the film abandons credibility in pursuit of a grand meta-narrative. When David’s heinous act from Margaret’s past is finally revealed—in a monologue expertly delivered in a single take—it proves so monstrous that it lifts the film into the realm of metaphor. Despite its teasing intimations of male-female power dynamics and visually graphic role reversals, this is essentially a one-note, one-idea film, although devotees of slow-burn suspense may cotton to the heavily oppressive atmosphere.
Resurrection is blessed with two knockout lead performances. Roth, vying for a top spot in the toxic masculinity sweepstakes, is creepily engaging as a master manipulator, flashing his English teeth and speaking in the dulcet tones of a trained sociopath. The way he pats his tumescent stomach builds to a payoff that’s best left unspoiled. Suffice it to say that horror aficionados will want to stick around for the final minutes, which should make the movie a new favorite on the midnight circuit. And Hall is simply gripping, evincing both strength and fragility as the slowly unraveling protagonist. Her mental anguish is never less than convincing even when the script takes her in a direction we do not want her to go.
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