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Stars: Ethan Hawke, Emma Watson, David Thewlis, Lothaire Bluteau, Dale Dickey, David Dencik, Peter MacNeill, Devon Bostick, Aaron Ashmore

Director: Alejandro Amenabar

It seems that J K Rowling’s Harry Potter Movies Money Machine is being rebooted yet again, this time with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

On the evidence of Emma Watson’s embarrassing, less-than-credible performance in this misfiring shocker, she might well be advised to return to Rowling in the hope of being able to relive her glory moments.

Writer-director Alejandro Amenabar (Oscar-winner for Best Foreign Film for The Sea Inside had me worried from the start with the message “This film is inspired by real events”. All too frequently this caveat indicates that "only the facts and characters have been changed in order to make a more saleable story”.

And this time, as the story progressed, I soon came to realise that the word “inspired” was a massive misnomer.

Regression is not inspired in any creative way.

Instead Amenabar serves up a underpowered shocker most likely to find an audience with the legions of obsessed genre completists.

So okay for horror movie addicts, then.

The setting is a fictional small town in Minnesota in the 1990s, a period when, apparently, stories of outbreaks of sinister satanic rites were rampant.

Traumatized David Dencik catalyzes the melodrama at the start when he admits to local police detective Ethan Hawke that he ritually raped his 17-year-old daughter Watson, who is now hiding out in priest Lothaire Bluteau’s church.

But neither he nor Watson can recall the unspeakable crime. Which leads Hawke to persuade his superior to seek help from British psychoanalyst David Thewlis who, apparently, will be able to bring repressed memories back to the surface…

In this context I found noted British psychoanalyst Havelock Ellis’s definition of regression therapy - “A reversion to an earlier mental or behavioral level or to an earlier stage of psychosexual development in response to organismic stress or to suggestion” - rather more helpful than anything Thewlis or Amenabar had to offer.

Instead we get a series of standard shock scenes of a diabolical nature as Thewlis and Hawke work hard to create credible characters in the face of the facile screenplay and drive the narrative towards the expected resolution of a fairly substandard shocker.

In fairness I should add that Canada plays Minnesota rather well.

Alan Frank

Spain/Canada 2015. UK Distributor: Entertainment. Colour.
106 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 08 Oct 2015