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Regression Blu-ray + Digital HD Review

Regression (2016) movie poster Regression

Theatrical Release: February 5, 2016 / Running Time: 106 Minutes / Rating: R

Writer/Director: Alejandro Amenábar

Cast: Ethan Hawke (Bruce Kenner), Emma Watson (Angela Gray), David Thewlis (Kenneth Raines), Lothaire Bluteau (Reverend Beaumont), Dale Dickey (Rose Gray), David Dencik (John Gray), Devon Bostick (Roy Gray), Aaron Ashmore (George Nesbitt), Peter MacNeill (Police Chief Cleveland), Adam Butcher (Brody), Jacob Neayem (Charlie), Aaron Abrams (Farrell)

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Spanish filmmaker Alejandro Amenábar seemed destined for big things. By age 32, he had completed four films: acclaimed horror movies in both Spanish (Thesis) and English (The Others), Penélope Cruz's star-making Open Your Eyes (remade by Cameron Crowe as Vanilla Sky with Cruz and Tom Cruise), and the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar winner The Sea Inside.
With such a productive run under his belt, Amenábar was sure to continue to attract talented actors while entertaining big offers from Hollywood, right? Wrong. Agora, Amenábar's 2010 historical drama set in Ancient Egypt starring Rachel Weisz, barely got a North American theatrical release, grossing $619 thousand on a $70 million budget. With that, the writer-director vanished, making just two short films in the years that followed.

Amenábar's return came earlier this year on Regression, an American thriller that played up The Others connection in marketing to no effect. It too barely made it to the big screen, grossing a pitiful $55 thousand after opening in 100 theaters and quickly retreating to seven. Regression failed to drum up interest despite an accomplished cast headed by Ethan Hawke and Harry Potter veterans Emma Watson and David Thewlis. It even had a legitimate distributor in The Weinstein Company behind it. But the studio's faith in the movie was lacking. It was pulled from Weinstein's schedule without explanation two months before its planned August 2015 release date. Though it proceeded to open in Spain and the UK last fall and perform okay there, it never really had a chance to be discovered here in February, its release four days after its U.S. trailer debut feeling more like a contractual obligation than an opportunity and simply a warm-up to a swift arrival on Amazon Instant Video (where it is free with a Prime membership) thirty days later.

In "Regression", police detective Bruce Kenner (Ethan Hawke) becomes consumed with a crime that might involve satanic ritual abuse.

Ostensibly based on true events, Regression is set quite arbitrarily in the fictional town of Hoyer, Minnesota in the fall of 1990. There, hardened Detective Bruce Kenner (Hawke) questions John Gray (David Dencik), an alcoholic mechanic who has just been accused of molesting his 17-year-old daughter Angela (Watson). John has no recollection of doing anything of the sort, but he believes the accusations that are submitted in writing by Angela, who is taking asylum at the family's evangelical church.

The department brings in Professor Kenneth Raines (Thewlis) to provide a psychological analysis of the accused. Raines finds Gray to be of sound mind, but he believes the balding father of two has repressed his memories of the incidents. To unlock them, Raines subjects the suspect to regressive hypnosis. This process sheds light on what is believed to be satanic ritual abuse. The subject has become popular enough to feature in bestselling books and in television journalism, but the agnostic Kenner is initially dubious.

Soon, however, he begins losing his mind and becoming obsessed with the case, as he starts believing real evil is all around and threatening him.

Angela Gray (Emma Watson) is afraid to disclose the abuse she has experienced.

Satanic conspiracy is not an easy idea to sell as something that could either be dreams or reality, but Amenábar, who takes sole screenwriting credit in addition to directing, tries to do it. Scenes of individuals in white make-up and black hoods performing ritual rapes and slaughtering and eating babies are disturbing and push Regression from procedural to horror.
It's not particularly effective in either form, but it's inherently more watchable as a procedural, feeling like a double-length "Law & Order" episode minus the law part. Regression adopts the look and feel of a David Fincher movie, Se7en being the most obvious source for comparison with its dark, gray, rainy motifs. It practically goes without saying that this movie isn't anywhere near as gripping and unsettling as that one.

Hawke is at ease with the material. He has impressively and almost unnoticeably transitioned from an indie scene guy to a leading man in mainstream genre fare. This didn't get the wide distribution that movies like The Purge and Sinister did, but it aims for a similar, all audiences appeal as those recent horror flicks. Watson doesn't get a whole lot of screentime and this seems like an odd choice for her post-Potter career, but her American accent and performance are without concern.

The setting seems random. No one talks or acts Minnesotan and aside from the use of old cars and corded home phones (and one pay phone), there is little to remind you that this is taking place 25 years ago. It is a missed opportunity to mine atmosphere and give some distinct personality to the proceedings. Instead, Kenner feels like a big city workaholic who is out of place in this rural town that is somewhat unfazed by such sinister deeds. The church and religion angles are explored, but to no end, which may be preferable to turning this into one of those religious thrillers that are usually dumb. We still wind up with one of the more anticlimactic endings committed to film.

Regression hits Blu-ray and DVD next Tuesday from Weinstein home video partner Anchor Bay Entertainment.

Regression: Blu-ray + Digital HD cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.40:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled in English
Release Date: May 10, 2016
Suggested Retail Price: $26.99
Single-sided, single-layered disc (BD-25)
Blue Keepcase
Also available on DVD ($22.98 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Regression looks fine on Blu-ray. The 2.40:1 visuals show off that stylized Fincher-esque aesthetic with nary a problem. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio mix rarely grabs your attention, but it stays crisp and consistent throughout.

Despite the film's dark subject matter, writer-director Alejandro Amenábar is all smiles as he directs a bloodied Ethan Hawke in one of the making-of featurettes. By the beard of Lupin, it's Regression's Blu-ray menu, minus the listings.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Regression is accompanied only by four HD short promotional featurettes that can be viewed individually or collectively with a "Play All" option.
Each runs 2-3 minutes long and does not limit itself strictly to the titular topic. There is even a little overlap among the pieces.

The featurettes are: "Ethan Hawke - Bruce's Obsession" (2:04), "Emma Watson: The Complexity of Angela" (2:30), "The Cast of Regression" (2:26), and "The Vision of Regression" (2:43). None of it is particularly enlightening but there are worse ways to spend ten minutes.

The scored ordinary menu loops a montage of clips. That menu loads, unusually, without a single trailer playing first. There are none of those found here. Though the disc does not support bookmarks, it does gladly resume unfinished playback.

The lone insert within the unslipcovered blue keepcase provides your unique code for Digital HD with UltraViolet, an inclusion that is becoming more standardized every day.

Detective Bruce Kenner (Ethan Hawke) consoles Angela Gray (Emma Watson) by the grave of her mother.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

With the amount of talent assembled here, you expect more from Regression, a watchable thriller that falls short of satisfying. Though unsettling in theory, the material doesn't ever really play as planned and the film strikes you more as gloomy than scary. The Weinstein/Anchor Bay Blu-ray is basic but fine. Unless you're gaga for the cast or director, this is one you can probably pass on renting.

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Related Reviews:
New to Disc: The BoyThe Driftless AreaJane Got a GunThe 5th Wave
Ethan Hawke: PredestinationGood KillGetawayBoyhoodBefore Midnight
Emma Watson: NoahThis Is the EndMy Week with MarilynHarry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
David Thewlis: Stonehearst AsylumLife Is SweetThe Fifth Estate
Adapted from Alejandro Amenábar: Vanilla Sky
The Devil's KnotRosemary's BabyPrimal FearWinter's BoneThe RiteFargo

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Reviewed May 5, 2016.



Text copyright 2016 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2016 The Weinstein Company, The Weinstein Company Home Entertainment and Anchor Bay Entertainment.
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