Regression suppresses the psychological overburden of satanic panic for a hellishly pedestrian thriller. The moral mayhem of satanic abuse hysteria plagued American media primarily in the 80s. County officers charging potentially innocent folk with child abuse claims, including ritualistic injuries. With many states cementing their faith as devout Catholics, the mere mention of Satan and his overwhelming power amongst people sent many into overdrive. Civilians petrified of the outside world in case they see “cult” members staring at them in hooded cloaks. The media’s mass perpetuation enabled pedestrians to see what they wanted to see. To cause national panic. To issue a story that was a mere fabrication. Susceptible souls, such as the fictional detective Kenner, were caught in the midst of hysteria and hurtled down a route of satanism due to convincing proposed testimonies from apparent sexually abused girls, including Angela.
Amenábar’s psychological thriller persuasively conveys the irrationality and frenzy of satanic abuse hysteria through the conviction of its central character, detective Kenner. A workaholic unable to disconnect his mentality from the case, as he investigates Angela’s testimony, which rampantly gears his imagination up to maximum potential when he envisages ritualistic fornication and infant sacrifices. Amenábar exquisitely supplies atmospheric fear through grisly environmental shots, especially given the constant torrential rainfall in Minnesota, and acute focus on Kenner’s psychological downfall. Thanks to an ever-dependable and committed central performance from Hawke whom, once again, goes one minuscule step further and essentially becomes the character. The minor details from the fatigued eyes to the drained expression illicit an effective portrayal. Its tepid horror is founded upon the visualised imaginations of its characters, with the curative procedure of recovered-memory therapy (RMT) enabling those moments at the hands of psychologist Professor Raines. A collection of unproven techniques that have patients staring into a metronome and attempt to recall the memories based on what the other individuals in the room are spouting out. Much likes its usage in the film, which is minimal to say the least, it proved ineffective and was a catalyst for the mass hysteria.
That’s not Amenábar’s main problem. The issue is that it’s structured as a thriller, bearing in mind that hysteria is typically based on fabrications and is outlined in the introductory title cards. So with that enveloped into the viewers’ minds, the “thrills” were inevitably inconsequential given the predictable nature of its plot points as a collective. Amenábar inserts a mystery element that teases the idea whether or not Angela’s testimony was truth or deception. Organically, it was deemed pointless. A genre splice for the sake of enabling various jump scares and setting up a climactic confrontation that clearly irked many audience members. The mystery strand could’ve had some grounds for existence had Watson’s acting been remotely resonant or expressive. She was monotonously unconvincing and that was a fundamental distraction (should’ve let Professor Lupin teach her some more Defence Against The Dark Arts!). Her over-acting was obnoxious and Angela’s general motive was too menial given the severity of its evolution. Ultimately, the feature’s conclusion with Angela’s father deterred from the main purpose of illustrating satanic abuse hysteria and coincided with a faith-based resolution. Almost contradictory to a degree.
Still, this was panned by both audiences and critics upon its release. A statement that seems somewhat unfair. Whilst the contents of Amenábar’s feature is inconsequential and underwhelming to say the least, he does conscientiously capture the contagious delirium of mass hysteria through technical brilliance, with the assistance of a sharp central performance from Hawke. Had he focussed on the widespread frenzy totally instead of the inferior victimised case, perhaps many would’ve been going crazy over this.