Rebecca Hall’s reinvention as the queen of “smart horror” continues, more or less apace, with “Resurrection,” a paranoid and metaphorical thriller so cryptic that it borders on obscurant.
So this Andrew Semans film has that, a chilly tone built from slick production design and an increasingly under threat/unhinged Hall in common with “The Night House,” her most recent dip in the genre pool.
Hall plays Margaret, a highly-competent mid-level exec at a bio tech/pharmaceutical firm who could be the poster woman for “Lean In.” A single mom, unsentimentally involved with a married subordinate (Michael Esper), she may not give off “life advice” vibes to us, but she’s who intern Gwyn (Angela Wong Carbone) goes to for career and romantic guidance. Margaret sizes up Gwyn’s description of a plainly-manipulative lover in an instant.
“You should find someone who makes you feel good.
The 40 year-old Margaret schedules assignations with her lover and family time in her tony two story designer flat for bonding and “hovering” over her ready-for-college daughter Abbie (Grace Kaufman).
But things start to unravel with a tooth, wholly extracted, that Abbie finds tucked in her things.
It isn’t just Abbie’s bike accident, which Margaret is slow to respond to because she was having a nooner with her married man, that makes Mom “even more suffocating than usual.” She’s spied a stranger from her past (Tim Roth) lurking around the edges of their world — in a store, a park, on a street. Abbie doesn’t recognize the threat. No one but Margaret does.
“Who’s going to protect you?”
What follows is a swirl of paranoid reactions, over-reactions and confrontations as Margaret tries to prepare for dealing with this David Moore she knew in her teens, and frantically attempts to alert others to what she believes he’s capable of.
Semans’ script suggests guilt, blame and next-level psychological mind-games in the connection between his heroine and her perceived nemesis. As in other films that go down this path, there’s uncertainty about what’s actually happening to Margaret and what’s just in her head.
Roth serves up an understated sort of “Gaslight” level of sinister here as Moore protests she’s mistaken him for someone else, then backhandedly reveals that lie when he starts his decades-old manipulations, demanding “a kindness” from this woman he once toyed with like a puppeteer.
That’s how she sees him, anyway.
Hall gives us Six Degrees of Separation from her Sanity in Margaret’s unraveling, a performance that conveys impotent rage, grief, guilt and paranoia without bluntly explaining what transpired way back when, and what’s going on now. Unless, of course, the deranged version of events that she “confesses” to her intern can be taken at face value.
I could have used a more blatant laying out of the cards in what might be a Roe vs. Wade thriller, or something more overtly traumatic and horrific. Semans leans on “cryptic” too hard, even as his killer cast ensures this “Resurrection” will have its riveting, harrowing moments no matter how much symbolic and obscure the filmmaker tries to be.
Rating: unrated, violence, sexual content, profanity
Cast: Rebecca Hall, Grace Kaufman, Michael Esper, Angela Wong Carbone and Tim Roth.
Credits: Scripted and directed by Andrew Semans. An IFC/Shudder release.
Running time: 1:43