THE RETURN (2021) is a new sci-fi horror movie that will surprise you and keep you guessing. But ultimately it doesn’t quite hit the target. Read our full The Return movie review here!
When horror decides to mix and mingle with other genres, one of two things can happen – absolutely magic or a big chaotic mess. Unfortunately, there’s rarely any middle ground, as diehard genre fans probably know from experience, so not everyone may be thrilled to hear that 2020’s The Return is best described as a mash-up between horror and science fiction.
However, director BJ Verot gives it an honest effort regardless. Verot also shares a writing credit for the film alongside Ken Janssens. The cast of The Return includes Richard Harmon, Echo Andersson, and Sara Thompson, among many others.
The plotline of The Return appears pretty standard at first glance if you go in knowing nothing about it. Rodger Emmerlich (Harmon) is the protagonist, an intelligent college student who takes after his pair of celebrated parents. However, he’s got an emotionally taxing task ahead of him. His father has just passed away, and now it’s up to Rodger to sort out his family’s affairs along with the help of his girlfriend Beth (Thompson) and friend Jordan (Andersson).
While they’re in town, the trio decides to stay in Rodger’s family home, which sounds innocent enough on the surface. But, of course, nothing goes quite as planned. As the three go through the seemingly endless numbers of boxes, files, and papers, something sinister appears to be keeping watch. A spectral figure begins to haunt them, which is naturally pretty unsettling.
There are also some intriguing answers about Rodger’s mysterious past coming to light, including a few sordid family secrets. Soon, Rodger and his friends find themselves trying to get to the bottom of how his father really died. There are plenty of questions that come up regarding what happened to Rodger’s mother and sister years ago, as well. With the additional help of therapist Dr. Cox (Marina Stephenson Kerr), he begins the hard work of bringing the real answers to light, no matter how disturbing they may turn out to be.
Although The Return appears to be a fairly standard haunted house story at first glance, it’s got a few surprises up its sleeve that set it apart from the rest of the pack. The mystery undertone of the first two acts of the film lends it an exciting film noir flavor that’s a lot of fun, especially when played against the haunted house elements you go in expecting. You do get wrapped up in the mystery at the center of Rodger’s family and want to see how things play out, especially as connected to the mysterious figures that seem to be haunting the house.
However, in the final act of The Return, the tone takes a pretty hard left. This is where things start descending into the realm of science fiction, which you’ll either like or you won’t. It’s not that the elements introduced at this point in the film’s progression aren’t fun, because they are. But the abrupt change in mood from gloomy to geeky may leave some viewers wondering what just happened. There’s even a bit of time travel thrown in for good measure – again, something you’ll likely either find delightful or completely off-putting.
One thing that’s for sure is The Return will surprise you and keep you guessing. It’s original and exciting. Many of the effects are well-done. But there are also many tired tropes sprinkled throughout, some of which may leave you groaning.
Ultimately, The Return doesn’t quite hit the target. But if you’re game for a little something different that isn’t trying to take itself too seriously, it might make for a nice change of pace.
The Return (2021) was released on demand and digital on August 10, 2021.
Director: BJ Verot
Cast: Richard Harmon, Sara Thompson, Echo Andersson, Marina Stephenson Kerr, Zoe Fish, Erik Athavale, Gwendolyn Collins
Rodger returns home from college with two friends to settle the affairs of his recently deceased father. They begin to experience weird and unsettling occurrences in the house. Rodger is soon plagued by strange childhood memories about a haunting by a ghostly presence. These memories boil over into reality culminating in an intense showdown with the terror that has come back.