Fri, Feb 02, 2007 - Page 16 News List

You looking at me?

'The Return' aims for mild creepiness rather than outright horror

By Jeannette Catsoulis  /  NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , NEW YORK

This time around Sarah Michelle Gellar plays her own slasher.


The horror movie workhorse Sarah Michelle Gellar is back to chill us with The Return, a rote thriller with an intriguingly frenetic shooting style. To play Joanna Mills, a troubled young woman experiencing visions, blackouts and the need to cut herself, Gellar sports the blank eyes and no-blush look she perfected in The Grudge franchise. Though this career stagnation is unfortunate, we should remember that without her, we might be seeing a lot more of Tara Reid. And nobody wants that.

A sales rep for a trucking company, Joanna heads for the fictional town of La Salle, Texas, to close a deal and slay her demons. This means we spend a lot of time in Joanna's truck, her decrepit hotel room and a dilapidated barn, while she is triply stalked by an abusive ex-boyfriend, a filthy hillbilly and a mysterious, sexy stranger. I won't spoil things by telling you which one she ends up with.

Directed by Asif Kapadia with more restraint than the trailers suggest, The Return aims for mild creepiness rather than outright horror. Helping considerably is the German cinematographer Roman Osin, who gave last year's Pride & Prejudice its authentic 18th-century griminess. Here he captures the Texas locations with a subdued, greasy palette of browns and grays, so that almost everything on screen is the color of rotted wood. You may see scarier movies this year, but none so redolent of decomposition.

Film Notes:

Directed by: Asif Kapadia

Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar (Joanna Mills), Peter O'Brien (Terry Stahl), Adam Scott (Kurt), Kate Beahan (Michelle), Sam Shepard (Ed Mills)

Running time: 85 minutes

Taiwan Release: Today

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