The Return is another haunted house film. Saying that that’s a crowded and somewhat overdone genre would be an understatement. But stunt man (Tales from the Hood 3, Incident in a Ghostland) turned first-time feature director Bj Verot and co-writer Ken Janssens think they have a plot angle to set their film apart from the rest. Can they really bring something new to the game, or is the project haunted by clichés?
Rodger (Richard Harmon, The 100, Puppet Killer) has inherited the family home after his father’s death. Along with his girlfriend Beth (Sara Thompson, I Still See You) and best friend Jordan (Echo Porisky, Life of Deaths) he’s gone to sort things out and clean the place up. This never goes well and soon all kinds of memories are being stirred up. And with them jealousy between Beth and Jordan. Along with a mysterious apparition.
A mysterious file on his father’s laptop and a meeting with Dr. Henrietta Cox (Marina Stephenson Kerr, Cult of Chucky, Channel Zero) leads to discoveries about his past, and the death of his younger sister. It also brings up more questions, especially about his “imaginary” friend Debby (Kristen Sawatzky). And whatever his physicist mother Esme (Gwendolyn Collins) was working on in the basement.
The Return starts out on a very conventional note, memories represented by distorted footage. And it builds up in an equally conventional manner, doors close by themselves, things fall off walls. Then something starts moving around at night. That something being a rather typical CGI smoke figure I should add.
The Return starts as classic haunted house film, and as it progresses, the science fiction edge starts to bleed through. We wanted to take the haunting sub-genre, and really turn it on its earBj Verot director of The Return
It’s all very familiar, and the science fiction angle is obvious from the start. Rodger is a genius just like his mother was. And her lab is in the basement, untouched after all these years. You can tell almost as soon as it’s brought up that it’s going to play a part in all of this. And equally as easily you can tell who and what are behind the haunting.
I will say I can only think of this angle being used once before, in the Ali Lartner film The Diabolical which I remember because I reviewed it for Rogue Cinema back in the day. It at least made good use of the idea. In The Return, however, you could replace the science with the supernatural and still have pretty much the same plot. The Ghostbuster gun Rodger builds is pretty cool looking though. It’s like something out of a 1980s Italian Terminator or Star Wars rip-off.
As a counterpoint to the CGI ghost, Debby is a nicely done practical effect. She looks somewhere between skinless Uncle Frank in Hellraiser and the title character in Pin. The trippy sequences during the climax are, once again, well done if familiar looking.
The film does move at an energetic pace and doesn’t drag. So if you like the current crop of haunted house films like Portal and Ghosts of Darkness you shouldn’t have a problem with The Return. It’s certainly better than the likes of Hinsdale House and The Haunting of Margam Castle.
The Return is showing as part of this year’s showcase of Canadian horror, The Blood in the Snow Film Festival. This year’s festival is being held virtually and all films will air on Super Channel. You can catch The Return on November 5th at 9 PM with a repeat at 12:30 AM. You can also check the film’s website and Facebook page for more information about other showings.