In 'The Return', supernatural and threatening visions draw a young woman to a remote town, the scene of a murder which happened over 15 years earlier. Though mediocre, you may well watch this 'horror' to the bitter end, only to conclude it was predictable from the start.
A young girl hides under a table at a carnival, fearing a man, whom she does not know, calling her and whispering with deep breaths. From the beginning it's unnerving, a murky foreboding haunts and lingers.
Years later, with the supernatural visions getting stronger and more frequent, Joanna Mills (Gellar), a young Texan sales rep, can shun them no longer. Joanna's nightmares guide her to the Midwest. As she drives through the night on a lonely road it becomes obvious that whatever badness is going to happen is imminent.
Unexplainable things keep on happening, like her car radio becoming 'possessed' with Patsy Cline's 'Sweethearts', over and over, on every station, every frequency, whether the radio is on or off. A strange woman screams, and screams, at her when she looks in the mirror while a scene of a car crash on the road before her disappears by morning.
Joanna is drawn to the town of La Salle, a place she has never been, yet it feels familiar. She's drawn towards Terry (O'Brien), a man who has served time in prison for killing his wife. And she recognises things in La Salle from her visions. Déjà vu. Joanna knows his house and his barn.
The murky is about to become clear.
From the beginning 'The Return' moves fast, too fast, as if desperate to get to the crux of the story. This is much to the detriment of character development, which often feels superficial, in particular the character of Joanna. We get a mere glimpse into her work-life before she hits the road to face her fears.
Once on the road, Asif Kapadia directs every shot handheld and with 'horror' in mind. And as if horror is synonymous with night-time - dark scenes, dark shots, remote setting - everything feels grainy and everything appears potentially perilous. Some may admire this focus, but his obsession with mood, which feels monotonous and claustrophobic at times, takes away from the story, a plot which in itself feels a bit familiar, ironically enough.
After an initial impression that Sarah Michelle Gellar could be different here - thanks mainly to her dark hair colour - she soon becomes the girl we know and love, so to speak. With a CV drowned with 'girl in danger' roles - 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer', 'The Grudge' - it's hard to see why she would want something so similar yet again.
As much as any other not-too-amazing, not-too-horrifying horror, 'The Return' is watchable but is probably more so for the Gellar fans than the horror fans. Hopefully though, a sequel, 'The Return of The Return', is not in the pipeline.