Sundance 2022: Something's Not Right in Extra Eerie 'Resurrection'
by Alex Billington
January 24, 2022
There's something wrong with Maggie. She is not who she seems. But I'll get back to that. Resurrection is an exceedingly eerie thriller premiering at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival and it's one of the best films I've seen at the festival this year. This meticulously crafted film follows in the footsteps of Yorgos Lanthimos' The Killing of a Sacred Deer as an unsettling film that gets crazier and crazier as it carries on. There are no easy answers, in fact there are no answers at all. The film hides many details in almost every single frame, and there's a foreboding feeling that builds throughout. I think a key part of my enjoyment experiencing this film is not knowing anything about it before watching. Festivals offer us this very special opportunity to discover films that have never been shown publicly before, there's no marketing or PR around them yet, all we have to work with is a vague synopsis and photo. The rest we discover as the film unveils at its premiere.
Resurrection is written and directed by filmmaker Andrew Semans, his second feature following Nancy, Please (2012). More than anything, his new film feels like one big, loving homage to the creepy, unsettling brilliance of Andrzej Zulawski's iconic 1981 horror film Possession (which got a 4K re-release last year). A fellow critic also points out that this could be called Martha Marcy May Maggie, referencing the unease of the film Martha Marcy May Marlene (Sundance 2011). Resurrection introduces a woman named Margaret, who goes by Maggie, played by Rebecca Hall. She is a powerhouse independent woman living her life with a teenage daughter who doesn't like her much. But one day she notices a man that she hasn't seen for over 20 years. And his return sends her completely spiraling into anger and confusion, as she struggles to make sense of why he's back. She finally tries to yell at him to go away and leave her alone, but he refuses. Why?
The film does not offer any answers in any clear way. In addition to the clear Zulawski inspiration, I also felt a sense of Kubrickian craft in this film. At first while watching it seems like drama about a woman with an abusive man from her past. But after a while you will to start to pick up on more details, and strange little happenings or throwaway lines. Eventually it reaches a point where you can tell where it's headed, but that still makes it more mysterious. Who is he (perhaps related to Cronus?), and even more interestingly, who is she? While it seems she's just trying to runaway from an abusive past, maybe there's something else? Maybe she's actually not who she says she is? There's a tiny reveal near the end where something shows up that has been referenced throughout the film and it's a big "oh shit" moment, at least if you're trying to make sense of all these little details. I found this so fascinating to pick up on, and I really want to discuss the film more.
I was completely caught up in this film and the story and figuring out what is going on and that's always an exhilarating feeling. The film's finale is a jaw drop WTF moment that you won't soon forget. It's a masterful psychological thriller that roars with an impeccable Rebecca Hall performance. She joins the ranks with Toni Collette from Hereditary (Sundance 2018) dropping an all-timer intense horror performance. I need to sit on this and think about it more, talk it over, discuss all the hidden layers and things going on within the frames of this film. Oh it's going to be talked about, and for good reason. I almost always enjoy a good film that doesn't offer all the answers directly, but is clearly smart enough to hide them in the film if you can figure them out. I think the key to deciphering the mysteries of Resurrection is - try not to believe anything Maggie says, what's on the surface is obscuring the truth about what's really going on. So, who are they…?