We have events from our past that are difficult to face. A parent with a drinking problem, the death of a loved one, or a ghost living in your house. Roger (Richard Harmon) is one of those unfortunate souls with all three of those things. Returning to his childhood home after his father’s untimely death, Rodger will be confronted by the ghosts of family traumas he never fully understood and memories he repressed, as well as an actual ghost.
Rodger’s childhood wasn’t a happy one. His younger sister died when they were young. His mother was a mathematical genius (a trait he inherited) but also an alcoholic. Their family life was, to use a polite word, strained. It’s not a past that anyone would want to return to alone, so he brings his girlfriend Beth (Sara Thompson) and his best friend Jordan (Echo Andersson) with him. It would be a good idea if it weren’t for the actual ghost in the house.
The Return is not what I would call a scary film. There are one or two jump scares, but there’s no real sense of dread to be found for anything other than Rodger’s relationship with the two women he’s brought with him. He’s painfully oblivious at times, to the point where it’s a wonder either stick with him. Each of the actors turns in solid performances, though, with Echo Andersson being the MVP of the film. It’s refreshing when something bizarre happens that rather than leaning into the mystery, she straight up wants to leave, and all the best lines in the film are hers as a result.
While the film runs up against some obvious budgetary limitations, some incredibly well-done makeup effects and prop designs are on display here. In addition, some creative editing gives the sequences where we flashback to Rodgers’s childhood and unnerving feel, highlighting the uncertainty of whether they happened. If you’ve seen this kind of film before, you might guess the resolution to the mystery before it happens, but I’d be surprised if you guessed all of it, especially once you start to put together that this supernatural story has a science fiction twist.
What it lacks in scares it makes up for in creativity and scrappiness. This is exactly the kind of movie I used to love to stumble across on late-night TV and exactly the type of film that makes you excited to see what everyone involved will do next.
The Return will air on SuperChannel as part of the 2020 Blood in the Snow Festival on Thursday, November 5th at 6 pm Pacific / 9 pm Eastern.