Review of "Resurrection": Mother of Fears

Somewhere near the end of “Resurrection,” a sleek, rambunctious, and ridiculously entertaining horror flick from Andrew Semans, there’s ...

Somewhere near the end of “Resurrection,” a sleek, rambunctious, and ridiculously entertaining horror flick from Andrew Semans, there’s a scene of such horribly bonkers intent that I actually gasped. And then I laughed, tickled by how easily Semans and his star, the charismatic Rebecca Hall, had persuaded me to invest in their crazy shenanigans.

But then Hall – as evidenced last year’s creepout, “The Night House” – has a knack for pumping gravity into somewhat bonkers narratives. Here, she embodies Margaret, an executive in a sort of pharmaceutical outfit, and from the outset there is an intensity that borders on obsession. Whether at work or as a protective single mother to her teenage daughter, Abbie (Grace Kaufman), Margaret is a calculated model of control. Even her sex life is tightly regulated, with affairs with her married colleague, Peter (Michael Esper), proceeding with more efficiency than pleasure. It’s not that Margaret is cold – more than once we see her empathically advising a young intern to leave an emotionally abusive boyfriend – it’s just that she seems permanently on guard.

But against what? The clues are starting to pile up. Abbie, who is about to leave for college, finds a human molar tooth in her wallet. Later, the sight of a mysterious man in a conference room causes Margaret to whiten and tremble, as if she had seen a ghost. More than two decades earlier, she was involved with this man, David (Tim Roth), and the relationship literally left her scarred. Now he seems to want something, randomly showing up without approaching her until, terrified, she approaches him. Her vulpine smile reveals a missing tooth.

As we’re about to learn, David is more than a heel, he’s a troublemaker, and what begins as a bullying story quickly descends into depravity and humiliation. And when Margaret’s carefully cultivated life begins to crack — she shoots her co-workers and fiercely watches Abbie’s moves — “Resurrection” teases a familiar fable of female disintegration. But Semans, who made his debut in 2013 with the cheeky psycho-comedy, “Nancy, please,” is an explorer of twisted minds too confident to settle for clichés. The deal David hopes to make with Margaret over an ancient tragedy is unbelievable, unthinkable, insane. Still, Roth’s eerily still body language and quietly sinister line-readings stifle the urge to laugh. He’s a magnetic sadist.

Encouraged by Jim Williams’ unsettling score, Hall and Roth convincingly sell their characters’ sick psychological bond. So while “Resurrection” harbors more than one theme – the anxieties of the empty nest, toxic men and the long tail of their manipulations – the film feels more like an unbalanced test of how far audiences can be persuaded to venture into the loonyverse.

That’s why Hall’s 7-minute monologue at the start of the film is so critical. As the screen darkens behind her and her pale face fills the frame, she tells the horrific story of Margaret and David with irresistible sincerity. It’s the perfect setup for an ending so delightfully ambiguous that I couldn’t help but applaud.

Unclassified. Duration: 1h43. In theaters.

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Review of "Resurrection": Mother of Fears
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