Think back to Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. We know Richard Dreyfus’ Roy Neary isn’t crazy, we were right there when he saw the blinding lights. But in life, when someone starts coming apart, rambling about visions and supernatural forces, the proper thing to do is urge them to seek help. Movies like Resurrection are terrific because they blur the line between how you’d act in reality and what’s appropriate for a film.
Resurrection stars the always outstanding Rebecca Hall, in peak form as an exec at a biotech company. Her character, Margaret, lives in an apartment as a single mother whose daughter Abbie (Grace Kaufman) is prepping to leave for college. Margaret seems content with the purely physical hookups she shares with a married coworker (Michael Esper). She’s tough and decisive at work, where she’s almost idolized by an intern (Angela Wong Carbone). Her community features folksy diners on one block, soulless parking lots on the other, and right around the corner, terrifying modern buildings that seem borrowed from Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes. (The movie is shot in Albany, New York, a strangely cinematic burg that does extraordinarily well in close-up here.)
Writer-director Andrew Semans is quick to show cracks in the facade of her competency, especially when Margaret unexpectedly catches a glimpse (that is him, right?) of David (Tim Roth) sucking his teeth and looking up to no good. Weird visions follow. Some are dreams (a baby in the oven: unpleasant!) and some are real (a tooth in Abbie’s pocketbook: not quite as bad, but certainly perplexing!). But after enough of David’s uninvited encounters, Margaret contacts the police—who can do nothing, despite her confession that he is Margaret’s ex-boyfriend, missing for two decades, and she’d very much like it if he stayed away.
With David back in town, Margaret’s nerves quickly fray, and Abbie getting in an accident doesn’t help matters. Margaret is clearly a victim of some kind of abuse, but exactly what went down—and how David so easily puts her back under his thumb—is the hook of this movie that we will take every measure not to spoil. The twist may shake loose some audience members who like to stick with reality, but supernatural horror fans will dig it. They may even think, “Gee, I’ve never quite seen that before!”
All is revealed in a tour-de-force monologue between Margaret and her intern, which plays out in one of those scenes you don’t realize is a single take until after it’s over. Even after all of this time apart, David maintains an unsettling hold over Margaret, and he’s able to manipulate her in degrading ways. She begins walking around town barefoot, just because of his (literal) marching orders. Her daughter and quasi-boyfriend try to intervene (or at least get her to realize that she is behaving irrationally), but to use the Close Encounters example from above—what if the alien was actually real?
By the third act, Hall plunges further into the cuckoo nature of the performance; it’s not something one could do in half-measures. (She is credited as one of the executive producers.) For what will surely be catalogued as a horror film, there isn’t much gore—right up until the moment that there is, anyway. Semans opens the movie with very clean lines and spare interiors, all to descend into glorious mayhem by the end.
The most terrifying thing, however, is how seeing how a clearly intelligent, capable person can be so quickly reduced to an automaton with the snap of someone’s finger. (And Tim Roth isn’t even handsome in this—he’s a gross slob with a potbelly, and that’s even an important plot point!) We’ve all known wonderful people who for whatever reason just won’t drop their loser significant other, and we can’t figure out why. Resurrection takes this to dark and vicious extremes, and the image of a dazed Rebecca Hall wandering around Albany without shoes works as a mundane symbol for this all-too-common kind of madness.