Review: Resurrection — Movies for the Rest of Us with Bill Newcott

Resurrection is an exquisitely calculated story of mounting madness; a portrait of a seemingly perfect life that proves to be a carefully constructed façade, behind which sprawls a hellscape straight from the canvas of Hieronymus Bosch.

Rebecca Hall in Resurrection (IFC Films)

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⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Rating: R

Run Time:1 hour 47 minutes

Stars: Rebecca Hall, Tim Roth, Grace Kaufman

Writer/Director: Andrew Semans

 In Theaters and on Video on Demand

Every so often, it’s invigorating to watch a film that dares you to whisper, “Oh, they’re not going there, are they?” And then they go there. And then they keep going…and going…and going.

Resurrection — a jarring psychological drama that starts out as simply weird and eventually spirals into the bloody realm of Grand Guignol horror — could easily be dismissed as just another Midnight Madness slasher entry; an easily disposable shocker calculated to give teenage couples an excuse to huddle together in the dark.

But there are much more than mere thrills at work in Resurrection. Aside from a jarringly over-the-top ending, writer/director Andrew Semans has created an exquisitely calculated story of mounting madness; a portrait of a seemingly perfect life that proves to be a carefully constructed façade, behind which sprawls a hellscape straight from the canvas of Hieronymus Bosch.

Margaret (Rebecca Hall) is a high-powered medical industry executive with a corner office, adoring minions, and a devoted daughter (Grace Kaufman). Then one day, at an industry event, she spots a man, the sight of whom hurls her into a paralyzing panic attack.

Before long we learn this guy (Tim Roth, creepy from the first frame) is David, Margaret’s long-ago lover. But they share more than a romantic history: Twenty-some years ago, David committed the most hideous act imaginable; a crime so unspeakably awful it defies comprehension. Indeed, the thing David and Margaret say he did is so mind-bendingly grotesque we spend a good deal of the film doubting it could ever have really happened.

Margaret hates David for his long-ago act, but he still has enormous power over her, a remnant of their abusive relationship. It would be beyond spoiling things to elaborate on the delusions that drive David, other than to say they relentlessly drag Margaret from apparent level-headedness to abject insanity.

Only a pair of actors the caliber of Hall (Vicky Cristina Barcelona, The Prestige) and Roth (Pulp Fiction, Rob Roy) could convincingly bring such characters plausibility—and take us along for the ride.

Hall, especially, gives a painstakingly metered performance. On Margaret’s train ride to madness, Hall allows us to experience each and every station stop along the way. Award seasons rarely recognize films like Resurrection, but Hall deserves an armful of nominations if only for her heart-stopping, 10-minute, one-shot monologue that at once brings the film to a screeching halt and infuses the whole endeavor with a sense of tragic, human urgency.

Resurrection is no horror/social commentary a la Jordan Peele’s Get Out. Nor is it an anarchic blood feast in the vein of the Saw films. Writer/director Semans instead chooses to strike a precarious balance between the two: Offering us a sometimes grotesque, yet emotionally engrossing, psychological portrait of two bat quano-mad people who just can’t quit each other.

Semans walks that tightrope admirably — until his ultimate misstep during that grand, gory finale. As Alfred Hitchcock proved in Janet Leigh’s Psycho shower scene, however brutal the event, no filmmaker need ever force their audience to turn away from the screen. After 90 minutes of masterfully modulating his narrative, in the end Semans throws everything to full throttle. And just like that, a film that has been irresistibly mesmerizing becomes virtually unwatchable.

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  1. Resurrection:

    Watched this film recently. Well done, superb acting, but the ending was completely incomprehensible to me.

    Was the baby Ben really inside the character David? Did Margaret actually cut David open and find the baby?
    Where were Margaret and daughter Abby in last scene? A mental hospital? Was that Baby Ben or the daughter’s child? Was it all a feverish dream?
    Anyone know?

  2. thank you for your review. i also commend you for no spoilers! this genre of movie is not my cup of tea,
    but have at it if it works for you. i am writing to warn readers of the nyt. ALL spoilers are on display and not
    a hint of read no further warnings. again i applaud your reserve and wonder what has happened to the grand
    tradition NO REVEALS IN A REVIEW….t.u.


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