(Spain/Canada - 2015; 2016 US release)
"Inspired by true events," REGRESSION takes place in a small Minnesota town in 1990, even though the height of Satanic Panic was more 1985-86). Hard-nosed, obsessive detective Kenner (Ethan Hawke) catches what seems to be a open-and-shut child molestation case involving mechanic John Gray (David Dencik). Gray confesses to molesting his teenage daughter Angela (Emma Watson), even though he has no memory of doing so. With Angela seeking refuge at the local church under the protection of the parish priest (Lothaire Bluteau), Gray undergoes regressive hypnotherapy with psychologist Dr. Raines (David Thewlis), during which he recalls another person present while the molestation took place: local cop Nesbitt (Aaron Ashmore). Kenner impulsively throws Nesbitt in jail and Angela reveals that her father, grandmother (Dale Dickey, once again cast as the second-string Melissa Leo), and numerous other town residents are part of a Satanic cult that engaged in everything from sex rituals to murdering and eating newborn babies. It isn't long before Kenner's paranoia takes over and he believes himself the next target of the cult. Considering that the Satanic Panic was little more than irrational hype from worried parents, reactionary law enforcement, and an overzealous media latching on to an alleged phenomenon guaranteed to get attention and scare the public into a frenzy, fashioning REGRESSION as a straight-up horror movie for most of its duration probably wasn't the way to approach this if Amenabar was making a serious examination of the topic. By the end, especially after a really dumb revelation that undermines everything about the Satanic Panic for the sake of a stupid twist, Amenabar has backed himself into a corner and debunked his own movie. This really should've been something more, but I can't really say what. And neither can Amenabar. (R, 106 mins)
(US - 2016)
SUBMERGED(US - 2015)
EXTRACTION triumph with former actor Bruce Willis, is already out of the limo, filling us on in the backstories of the characters and how they arrived at their current predicament. Who gives a shit? Limo driver Matt (Jonathan Bennett, who played Bo Duke in the DTV DUKES OF HAZZARD sequel and replaced Ryan Reynolds in a DTV VAN WILDER sequel) is a bodyguard for Jessie (Talulah Riley), the spoiled daughter of billionaire business CEO Hank Searles (a slumming Tim Daly), who recently laid off a ton of workers. Turns out the party limo filled with several of Jessie's friends was targeted by disgruntled ex-employees looking to abduct Jessie for a fat ransom from Searles (or Sayles--in an apparent homage to OVER THE TOP's Lincoln Hawk/Hawks, the movie can't seem to decide).
Instead of letting the suspense build in the limo--where everybody starts arguing ("Every time you kiss her, you're tasting my dick!")--Miller and Milam spend entirely too much screen time on flashbacks involving Matt's troubled, drug-dealing younger brother Dylan (Cody Christian), which ultimately does nothing other than pad the running time. You'll be able to spot the puppet masters behind all the mayhem long before Matt does, mainly because of one character who acts weird for no reason (and later talks in the kind of condescending, sing-songy tone that only one-dimensional villains in bad movies and TV shows use), and another who's played by a prominently-billed, well-known, veteran actor who's barely in the first 90% of the movie. Also featuring Mario Van Peebles, SUBMERGED sinks in almost record time, with Miller demonstrating absolutely no ability to stage any kind of suspense or action sequence (the climax has one of the most ineptly-shot fight scenes in recent memory), with only a couple of surprisingly gory splatter scenes and a competent, if slightly bland performance by Bennett (who looks like the guy you get when Karl Urban doesn't return your calls and Brandon Routh lies and says he's busy) to save it from total uselessness. Even by the standards of the VOD scrapyard SUBMERGED, is at the bottom of the heap. (Unrated, 98 mins, also streaming on Netflix)