The psychological horror film “Resurrection” comes to theaters this Friday, directed and written by Andrew Semans, and starring Rebecca Hall and Tim Roth. Available On Demand August 5th.
In this film, we see a portrait of a survivor, a woman who has built her life independent of a man. This woman, Margaret, is played flawlessly by Rebecca Hall. She takes care of her body and is at the top of her career. Her relationship with her daughter Abbie (Grace Kaufman) is in a good place. She has built a life as strong as “Fort Knox”. A toxic relationship she thought she escaped 22 years ago starts chiseling away at her sense of security when David (Tim Roth) comes back into her life.
“Resurrection” is written and directed by Andrew Semens. Being a female-centric film, I always dig a little deeper into the source material when the film has been directed and written by a man. I do believe there is some truth to what director Maggie Gyllenhaal (“The Lost Daughter”) says about women directors: “I think that when women express themselves honestly, it looks differently than when men express themselves honestly. This is really dangerous to talk about.” (Maggie Gyllenhaal Has Dangerous Ideas About Directing, NY Times)
I believe this subject should be talked about and explored. That is why I elevate films written and directed by women and non-binary people. But when I read the press notes, Andrew Semans shared that his female friend’s story became the crux of the film, and catapulted the direction of the script, it made more sense to me:
“I started writing “Resurrection” about 7 or 8 years ago while I was working on other scripts, so it was a long gestation period. I imagined a character of a single mother acting alone to protect her child from some sort of dangerous threat or predator, but I didn’t quite know who she was or why she must act alone. Around this time, a friend of mine became involved in a relationship with a very toxic guy, and I witnessed their relationship firsthand. In talking to her and trying to understand the nature of that relationship – and trying to figure out how I might help her extricate herself from this relationship – I became interested in and terrified by the tactics employed by manipulative, controlling people to form and maintain intense emotional bonds with their victims. What I learned greatly influenced the shape of the script.”Andrew Semans
I could see that Rebecca Hall was channeling that friend’s experience in every frame of her performance as Margaret. Andrew used the word “victim”, but to me, Margaret is a survivor. She was able to rebuild every aspect of her life, and when David shows up and threatens that, she fights. We believe in what she is doing, and we are rooting for her, even if there is an element of madness to it. Because that is the point of a film like this one, we suspend our disbelief.
I feel the same way about Cassandra (Carey Mulligan) in Emerald Fennell’s “Promising Young Woman” (2020) . She is taking control in her own hands, and we root for her. These survivor stories are emerging through the horror film genre in an interesting way.
In the wake of the #MeToo movement, women are becoming louder, and that’s reflective now onscreen. This rage stems from years and years of toxic men taking what they want, and manipulating women to fulfill their sick fantasies. I’m reminded of my interview with Nancy Miller who shared with me some words from Patton Oswalt reflecting on his late wife Michelle McNamara’s book about the Golden State Killer, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark (Nancy Miller on “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark”, Michelle McNamara, and the true crime of sexual assault): “The world is angry when they see young beautiful, smart, vivacious women living independently. And there is this compulsion to want to steal that from them.”
In retrospect, I pull from this film a survivor story. It is hard to watch, and it sits under your skin. I do not look at Margaret as a woman who’s lost her mind, but as a woman who finds herself in the fight. The intensity and sophistication of Rebecca Hall’s performance makes me believe that.
Music Box Theatre & IFC Films present writer/director Andrew Semans’ psychological horror tale RESURRECTION, starring Rebecca Hall, beginning July 29. Also starring Tim Roth. For showtimes and information on the film, click here: https://musicboxtheatre.com/films/resurrection.