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Sunday, January 23, 2022

[Sundance Review] Disturbing ‘Resurrection’ Is an Unhinged, Stunning Showcase for Rebecca Hall

If last year’s The Night House or Godzilla vs. Kong didn’t already solidify actor Rebecca Hall’s talents for selling the hell out of any fantastical story and worldbuilding, her latest surely will. Resurrection transforms the familiar psychological-thriller setup of an unraveling, hysterical woman into something far more refreshing and deranged, serving as a jaw-dropping showcase for Hall as she dials up the intensity to palpable levels.

Hall stars as Margaret, a savvy career woman with a sturdy head on her shoulders. She’s single-handedly raised an independent teen, Abbie (Grace Kaufman), on the cusp of leaving the nest for college. When we meet her, she’s doling out assertive dating advice to her mild-mannered employee. Margaret also successfully hides her affair with colleague Peter (Michael Esper) at the office. She’s the epitome of self-control. But Margaret’s carefully assembled life begins to untangle from her grasp when David (Tim Roth), a menacing man from her distant past, shows up out of the blue to reclaim her.

Writer/Director Andrew Semans crafts a dread-soaked horror-thriller that explores the psychological toll of abuse. Margaret might be two decades removed from her toxic relationship with David, but his sudden arrival erases that time with effortless ease. Margaret’s unmooring, from calculated control to frantic paranoia and fear, provides fertile ground for Hall as a performer, and she more than rises to the occasion.

Hall commands the screen in an almost ten-minute long monologue, as her character delivers harrowing exposition on her past relationship with David. Semans lets the background fall into the darkness around her, giving his actor the deserved spotlight to wrap the audience around her fingers. It’s a jaw-dropping scene that sets up just how dangerous Davis is for her and how shallow his afflicted wounds lived in her psyche in the years since she left him. This pivotal scene alone would warrant the price of admission.

Because Semans infused horror into this psychological thriller, Resurrection captivatingly goes to some dark, grisly places. Early on, a grotesque nightmare scene gives only a tiny hint of where Margaret’s journey will end. Semans ramps up the tension at a steady clip until a Grand Guignol finale with shocking implications.

Distilled down to its most basic premise, Resurrection reads like a familiar psychological thriller. It is another woman rendered completely erratic and hysterical by a former abuser. That includes irrational behavior that winds up putting its heroine and her loved ones in more danger by her own doing. Perhaps a little too much; Roth nails menace well but doesn’t have to do much to push his traumatized victim into insanity. Just his presence alone does the trick, which means Roth gets far more underutilized than expected. There aren’t many surprises in terms of narrative beats, only in how it gets there. Semans smartly toes the line between Gothic melodrama and straightforward earnestness. 

Most importantly, it’s anchored by a profoundly impressive performance by Hall, who can wring gripping dread out of even the strangest character choices. Resurrection delivers on the horror thrills, especially regarding the wild, astonishing use of violence; it works best as a showcase for Hall.


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