The Returning (1983)

  |  Horror, Mystery


The Returning (1983) Poster

Two different men are possessed by spirits of Native Americans after they separately wander into a sacred burial ground. When John and Sybil come home with their son after a trip to the ... See full summary »


3.8/10
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2 December 2011 | Bloodwank
5
| Flawed but interesting mysticism themed affair
Coming out in 1983, The Returning has the feel of a child lost in time. A creeping, ambient work, if I hadn't known beforehand I wouldn't have placed it any later than 1977. It takes its theme of American Indian mysticism seriously, even thoughtfully, forming a considerable contrast to the more gruesome and energetic slasher horror prevalent at the time. Polar opposite of something like Fred Olen Ray's classic Scalps, no passion of knifeplay nor life lost in red spray, the scares here are strange and quiet. The film focuses on the Ophir family, father John, his wife Sybil and son Jason. After a curious find on a rock hunting expedition on an Indian reservation John begins to feel a supernatural pinch, and after Jason is killed in an accident things really get a bit weird... It sounds like a standard "Indian curse teaches the white man some respect" narrative, but happily is rather more mature than such vaguely xenophobic alarmism. The supernatural forces at work are somewhat vague until the end, but rather than working from a purely malign position their intent seems to be more of a lesson. Father and son are largely blameless individuals and interested in other cultures, but in the father such interest seems to be ossified, he collects artifacts and works in the Department of Indian Affairs but seems lacking in passion. Son Jason seems more enthusiastic, but there is the general feel that he will follow in his fathers footsteps, becoming more mind than heart in his pursuits. Though harsh in its workings the fate that befalls serves to unite the the, the aim being one presumes to save both. And so the film serves to question means rather than totally condemn, inquiring on a deeper than expected level into the relationship of ancient mysticism and the present. Underlying issues unfortunately muddy the film and drive it into its slightly unsatisfying, more plotted final block, but even here the emphasis is refreshingly on the Indian's side of things. The film sadly is a little too light on excitement, with its handful of incidents generally not weird or shocking enough to make much impact. The mystical side of things isn't developed enough either, though the vagueness and lack of much exposition appeals to the imagination there isn't enough power over imagery to suggest greater depths. The editing is a bit glitchy too, scenes sometime cut short or lacking point. Still, its nice looking stuff and pretty watchable, tilted angles and various peering shots of artifacts put across a certain offbeat atmosphere and there are some great shots of grand Dakota desert-scapes. The acting is good too, Gabriel Walsh conveying a suitable blank weirdness as John, Susan Strasberg loving, striving and frustrated as his wife and Victor Arnold nicely harried as the trucker responsible for Jason's death. So for all that the film somewhat underwhelms, it has an underlying persuasiveness to it that makes it fairly worthwhile. Fans of obscurities could do worse than to check it out, though its still a bit of a borderline case

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