As of today,
May 10, you can check out the new thriller th REGRESSION starring Ethan Hawke and Emma Watson on Blu-Ray, DVD, Digital HD and On Demand. The flick takes place in Minnesota in 1990 and Hawke plays Detective Bruce Kenner, who is investigating a young girl’s accusation of abuse at the hands of her father, John Gray. He confesses to the crime despite not having any recollection of it, so Kenner brings in a psychologist to try to uncover the truth, but there may be more at play than initially thought. Check out the trailer below:
The thing that has me intrigued for this particular movie, besides the stellar cast, is it’s the latest from Chilean director Alejandro Amenábar. The filmmaker has been making films now for over 20 years, but with the release of REGRESSION, I wanted to shine the spotlight on some of his earliest work, which to this day remain some of my all-time favorite foreign films.
Amenábar had made a few short films, but his feature film debut is this excellent thriller titled THESIS. In it, Angela (Ana Torrent) is a college student working on her final thesis. She opts to set her sights on writing about the underground and unproven market of “snuff films.” These are films commissioned for the sole purpose of profiting off of filming the murder of another human being. While investigating and uncovering a potential “snuff film,” she realizes that the girl in the video is a missing fellow classmate. Is there an underground circuit of “snuff” films being made on her very own college campus? The more she digs into the possibility with her friend and assigned partner Chema (Fele Martinez), the more dangerous it becomes for them both. There’ve been a lot of films that tackle variations on this subject matter. MUTE WITNESS is one. 8MM with Nicholas Cage is another. But really, Amenábar’s take is one of the strongest and most impressive directorial debuts of the bunch. It’s available in the US on both DVD and Blu-Ray.
OPEN YOUR EYES (ABRES LOS OJOS)
This could very well be my all-time favorite Spanish language film. After seeing THESIS and tracking down Amenábar’s follow-up, I was completely blown away, both in mind and in spirit! Cesar (Eduardo Noriega) is a smooth, handsome, carefree womanizer. He goes about his life having fun and bragging about his conquests, much to the annoyance of his best friend Pelayo (Fele Martinez, also returning from THESIS). He’s content sleeping with various women until one day he meets Sofia (Penelope Cruz) and immediately falls head over heels in love with her. Just as he’s about to change his ways, a scorned former lover attempts to kill herself along with Cesar. He survives the ordeal but is horribly disfigured. There’s nothing the doctors can do to fix the damage done to his face other than to offer a plastic (creepy) mask. Desperate, he is offered a radical new therapy that can not only fix his face, but put his life back in order. Once he complies, little cracks start to show in the façade and something isn’t right about his now perfect life. It’s a total mind-trip of a movie, and if it sounds familiar, it’s because a few years after its release, it was remade as VANILLA SKY with Tom Cruise and Penelope Cruz reprising the exact same role she played in the original. There’s something off about the Cameron Crowe update, which is why I always strongly advise people to seek out the original instead. Amenábar was offered to direct VANILLA SKY, but he opted instead to do THE OTHERS as his American debut.
Coming in the wake of psychological horror/thrillers such as THE SIXTH SENSE and STIR OF ECHOES, Amenábar next tackled his first Hollywood movie with Tom Cruise’s then-wife Nicole Kidman in the lead, THE OTHERS. In this period piece, Kidman plays Grace, a widowed woman that moves into an old house with her two children Anne and Nicholas. Unfortunately, her kids suffer from a strange allergy to the sun, so there are very specific rules laid out to the help about what can and can’t be done there. For example, curtains must always be drawn, each of the giant house’s 50 doors must be locked before opening another one, etc. As can be expected in a giant gothic house such as this, signs point to a potential haunting. But is that the case? Or is there more going on here than meets the eye? Stylistically, Alejandro Amenábar has always delivered great movies. It’s not horror, but if you’re ready to cry your eyes out, check out THE SEA INSIDE, his follow-up to THE OTHERS with an incredible performance from Javier Bardem and also there’s his epic historical drama AGORA. But as a film or genre fan, I strongly suggest going back to THESIS, OPEN YOUR EYES and THE OTHERS before delving into REGRESSION!