By Matthew Moorcroft
- Directed by Andrew Semans
- Starring Rebecca Hall, Tim Roth, Grace Kaufman, Michael Esper
An unsung master of anxiety inducing cinema, Rebecca Hall is one of Hollywood’s great underappreciated, yet always incredible, performers that manages to floor you each new role in spite of itself. You think she can’t get better, and then viola, she does anyways, and you are left wondering to yourself how the hell she doesn’t have an Oscar nomination yet.
This leads us to her latest show-stopper, Resurrection, which is a luridly tense, engrossing as hell psychological character study that perfectly toes the line between slow burn thriller and full on nightmarish horror. What begins as simply as a day by day examination of a composed women with a strict routine ends as a unraveling of the psyche, a study of unknown, and the pain of abuse. The “resurrection” in question is a metaphorical one – it’s a resurrection of trauma and it’s cyclical nature.
Once Hall sees her abuser, or what she thinks is her abuser, the unraveling begins. And it’s quick as well, with her reverting back to old habits, unable to control her emotions, scared for her daughter who about to head off to college, and all of her co-workers worried for her behaviour. Hall perfectly demonstrates how quickly somebody who has been in abusive relationship can revert back to that state when confronted with the trauma, and Hall’s almost magnetic screen presence just glues you to the screen here. An eight minute long monlogue halfway through the film, detailing here experience, is not only show stopping but impossible to look away from just in terms of the sheer acting on display. The never cuts away, never loses focus, just a slow zoom in on her eventual breakdown.
And while Hall is the obvious standout here, and also clearly the lead attraction, Tim Roth’s devilishly evil turn as her stalker and abuser is frightening, entertaining, and impactful. He doesn’t raise a single fist against her throughout the entire film and yet you are so terrified of the man; he is a walking machine of hate and control. Roth by the end manages to exude such sliminess that you start to be convinced of his ramblings yourself, a testament to the power of his overall skill as a performer.
Andrew Semans is mostly to thank for these otherwise excellent performances, and he also manages to have a solid eye for framing, camerawork, and editing. There is a calculated nature to each and every shot here, and the 1:66:1 aspect ratio makes everything seem more claustrophobic and tightening. Semans is a relative unknown so this level of craft is remarkable, even if the script sometimes has trouble keeping up with everything else. The slow burn approach to the material means the film likes to repeat certain events, which has it’s purpose to mostly showcase Hall’s world deteriorating around her even if the gist is given maybe a little bit too quickly.
But that last act! A relatively bloodless film up to this point and yet it ends in a flurry of graphic, almost body horror levels of terror and insanity and it’s both cathartic and thought-provoking. Once she enters the hotel room, Resurrection quickly turns into one of the year’s most exciting horror films and ends on one of the best final shots of the year. It’s almost the opposite of Men from earlier in the year, which struggled to maintain it’s focus as it descended into madness. This on the other hand feels confident and thematically secure, and they absolutely “go there” which is a nice touch.
In a year that’s been sublime for horror, Resurrection stands as one of the best of the year in terms of sheer anxiety. It’s an unforgettable experience in spite of itself at points, and it’s ambition and performances make it worth it through it all. A must watch for those in the mood for a smarter, more unexpected form of horror, or for those who just wanna see Rebecca Hall absolutely slay another role.