The definitive mark of a great horror film is its capacity to induce a visceral reaction. The natural design of the genre is to strike fear and terror into an audience, and the best of the best make you scream, run chills up your spine, and have your skin break out in goosebumps. You’re physically watching projected images, but your brain is inspired to switch into fight or flight mode, and your body responds.
I thought about this a lot while watching writer/director Andrew Semans’ Resurrection, starring Rebecca Hall and Tim Roth. As it unfolded, I found myself frequently gasping and recoiling, but most significantly by the end I felt physically sore as a result of having spent so much time with my arms and legs firmly tensed against my body.
Resurrection has premiered as a part of the slate at the all-virtual 2022 Sundance Film Festival, and I went into the movie with high expectations – particularly buoyed by memories of Rebecca Hall’s phenomenal turn in David Bruckner’s The Night House (the best horror feature of 2021). Not only does it make me want to see every horror project that Hall is involved with from this point forward, but I was shocked to discover one of the greatest performances that Tim Roth has ever given, as his turn is chilling and unforgettable.
Structurally speaking, it’s a “decent into madness” story. Margaret (Rebecca Hall) is introduced as a together and successful biotech executive and single mother raising a teenager daughter (Grace Kaufman) who is getting ready to head off to college. But it all starts to come crashing down after a simple cursory glance around a conference room while she is attending an industry event. It’s during this casual surveying that she happens to spot a man from her past (Tim Roth), and his presence – his resurrection in her life, if you will – terrifies her so considerably that it starts to unravel her whole life.
Andrew Semans’ Resurrection is spectacular psychological horror.
From its very first frame, Resurrection drops you in the perspective of Margaret, and it’s in never severing the connection that the film is able to sink its teeth into you and render you terrified to twitch a muscle. You’re firmly buckled in with no escape from the emotional ride the character experiences as she reacts to her greatest nightmares come to life, and Rebecca Hall’s exceptionally committed performance makes the horror tangible and real.
There is a physical deterioration that comes along with the mental corrosion for Margaret in the story – the character dealing with insomnia, non-stop anxiety, and malnutrition – and in the aftermath one feels intense respect for what the actor puts into the part. As you’re watching the film, though, you’re just awed by the character’s transformation and stunned by the stakes that rise in conjunction.
You understand and respect the horrors of Margaret’s past because of the power of Rebecca Hall alone – but what takes things to a next level in Resurrection is the mind-twisting, effusively evil character played by Tim Roth. What he’s doing in the film effectively justifies every ounce of empathetic terror the audience experiences, as his entire energy feels beyond threatening and sinister. Truth be told, he doesn’t do much as far as “action” through most of the movie, but that ultimately on speaks to the higher level on which he’s operating, with even simple lines of dialogue and simple smiles rattling your nervous system as it does Margaret’s.
There is so much more to say about Resurrection, from its shocking and enigmatic conclusions to the perfect monologue that is delivered by Margaret in the second act… but it’s also a film that is naturally best experienced with limited knowledge of the plot and characters, and thus the wake of its Sundance premiere is not really the time for a full discussion. The movie has not gotten distribution as of yet, but when it does I will personally await the release date with glee and the rush of reactions that flow.
Be on the lookout for updates, check out our 2022 Movie Release Calendar to discover all of the films set for release between now and the end of the year, and stay tuned here on CinemaBlend for more of our Sundance Film Festival coverage.