RESURRECTION Review - Sundance Film Fest
E. L. King calls director Andrew Semans' Resurrection a devastating portrait of how trauma and the lingering repercussions of its effects manifest themselves.
Director Andrew Semans' unnerving psycholocial thriller Resurrection had its world premiere at this year's Sundance Film Festival and this horror film—trust me it's a horror film—has plenty of gore-filled and mind-bending moments to leave you questioning reality. The film focuses on Margaret (Rebecca Hall), a single-mother leading a successful and orderly life, perfectly balancing the demands of her busy career and parenthood to her daughter Abbie (Grace Kaufman). The delicate balance that she relies upon is upended when she encounters an unwelcome shadow from her past.
"A sadist never understands why others aren't enjoying his sadism as much as he is."
The eerie fracture from Margaret's disciplined and rigid routine begin with Abbie discovering a mysterious tooth in her wallet—sharing the find with her mother by playing a prank that involves putting a random tooth in her mouth or so we're led to believe. At a medical conference, Margaret spirals, overcome with a panic attack after spotting David Moore (Tim Roth), a man from her past. Breaking into a sprint, she runs home to her daughter, confirming Abbie is safe before breaking down into tears. Margaret's fear and seeds of paranoia seem to instantly take hold as she takes to Google searching up his name, but alas, there are no results. In the night, she hears a knock at the door, only to enter the kitchen to find smoke billowing out of the oven. Upon opening it, she discovers the body of a charred baby inside, but then wakes to find it was only a nightmare.
Signs of past abuse reveal themselves and it becomes clear that Margaret is using sex with her married colleague as a distraction from the anxiety and stress of her daughter leaving home for college as her eighteenth birthday quickly approaches. Suddenly, Margaret begins spotting David everywhere she goes, eventually soon interacting and this is where things get creepy. Reality further fractures. Is David real or is he a manifestation of Margaret's fear, stress and anxiety at having her daughter out of her sight. She tells an intern a horrifying story of the abuses referred to as "kindnesses" that David committed against her during their relationship. She's clearly suffereing from post-traumatic stress disorder—Abbie's terrified at her mother's behavior. At one point, she even suggests Margaret's having an "episode".
In discovering the truth about her relationship with David, her tormented past and her debilitating trauma, it quickly becomes clear that nearly everything involving David—the nightmares, his appearances and the tooth is a creation that Maragret has manifested—she's unraveling and it's getting progressively worse. She's been mentally and emotionally suffocating her daughter to "protect" her, but Abbie is leaving and there is nothing she can do to stop it. She will be alone. She will lose her child. The climax of the film cements how fragmented Margaret has become as her mechanisms to cope with her trauma break down.
Minneapolis native Andrew Semans Sundance premiere of Resurrection is his first time at the festival. His prior feature directorial work includes the films Nancy, Please (2012) and I'd Rather Be Dead Than Live In This World (2005). The film is tense and absolutely terrifying. It's a complete assault on the senses to the point of absurdity. Like Margaret, it's incredibly difficult to discern what, if anything the audience witnesses is real. The incredibly strong performances from the film's leads only add to the foreboding atmosphere and terror.
Resurrection is a devastating portrait of how trauma and the lingering repercussions of its effects manifest themselves. You can fight to destroy your demons, but must be careful not to lose yourself within your nightmares in the process. Prepare for one hell of a grotesque body horror experience and determine for yourself what is real and what is a waking nightmare.