Starring Rebecca Hall as Margaret, Resurrection is an uncomfortably intense study of the powerful grip that echoes of past trauma can have on a person’s psyche.
Dressed up as a psychological horror, Hall’s nuanced and intelligent performance gifts the serious aspects of the story a surprising gravitas, while her unwavering commitment validates and endorses writer/director Andrew Seamans’ departures into the more grotesque and provocative aspects of the horror.
Hall’s Margaret opens the movie, first appearing on screen as a pastoral figure, sympathetically advising a young mentee at work, struggling with a toxic relationship. It is an emotionally distant yet oddly compassionate act of mothering that we later see her repeat when she talks with her own teenage daughter, Abbie (Grace Kaufman) about her imminent departure for college.
Margaret is the archetypal ‘successful woman’. She has it all and can do it all; career, money and children. The sharp business suits and glossy skyscraper window dressing paints her as the archetypal ‘independent woman’, who has overcome the challenges of life with grace and steely conviction to reach the pinnacle of a career. Margaret’s home life, too, is a realised fantasy. She shares an enviable modernist apartment with her considerate (though grumpy and boundary-testing) teenage daughter and the only tangible interaction with the opposite sex is a heavily compartmentalised no-strings physical ‘relationship’. All traces of male influence are bleached from the home, creating a chaste castle of female empowerment.
Save for the rebellious spirit of her teenage daughter, with whom she exhibits uncomfortable levels of overbearing, protective attachment, it is clear that Margaret is in control of every aspect of her life. However, following a tumultuous exchange with Abbie we start to see the façade of unwavering confidence crack. The very idea of losing her daughter to the ravages of the wide world swiftly sends Margaret spiralling with seemingly unwarranted levels of vehemence.
That spiral descends into twirling layers of chaos when Tim Roth’s David steps into the picture. Aping a Michael Myers-esque appearing and disappearing act, we catch glimpses of Roth as a man in the periphery of her life, forcing his way to the centre of her focus. His very presence there manages to instantly unsettle Margaret’s usually controlled composure and his banal demeanour unnerves her to bizarrely wild explosions of rage. The fact that David goes unnoticed by the rest of the world, leads the audience to question whether he’s there at all or if we are just witnessing Margaret’s projected visions, inherit of a psychotic break brought on by the imminent threat of an empty nest that threatens to upset her well-crafted life.
The trope of questioning an intelligent woman’s sanity has always been fertile ground for horror, though much like the recent Smile, Resurrection struggles to take the opportunity to really push home the more rounded conversation it is desperately trying to put front and centre.
The two leads, Hall and Roth, are on excellent form and as the story starts to take hold, we see them both flexing well-trained muscles, keeping the audience entertained and engaged, while Semans’ story provides the kind of twists that will resonate with fans of the recent horror Malignant – more so than those looking for a psychological thriller. Unfortunately any signs of subverting either of these genres or the stereotypes within are starkly absent and despite commitment to a rather shocking third act, Margaret’s rapid unravelling leads the story down a predictable path.
Resurrection is out now on digital platforms