To judge by the packaging of Rogue Pictures' 2006 horror film The Return, one might think that a truly terrifying ghost story was lurking within. With a tagline that reads "The past never dies, it kills", cover art of pale ghosties with emaciated arms reaching out like some two-bit Black Metal band's promo photo and a synopsis that states the film is a "shocking, non-stop, supernatural thriller unlike anything you've ever experienced before", why would you think otherwise? But that's not all as the DVD bonuses include an alternate ending "too shocking for the big screen". Holy moley, sign me up!
In reality, The Return has nothing to do with any of that and I wonder if the filmmakers were disappointed in Rogue's decision to market what is, essentially, a smartly done (though not too terribly original) whodunnit into a Silent Hill-esque terrorfest.
Starring Sarah Michelle Gellar (of Freddy Prinze Jr. fame), The return focuses on a lonely saleswoman haunted by a fuzzy, but traumatic childhood experience that she can't quite recall. When a sales trip to a small Texas town begins triggering painful memories and frightening visions of murder that she can't explain, she begins to investigate things a little more deeply and soon discovers that she has some ties to this town that are more than just coincidental.
Essentially, The Return is a horror film, though not the kind with slashers chopping up big breasted teens or ghosts that return from the grave. The violence and mayhem is restrained and the pace of the film is slow and well planned. This works well in the film's favor as the scary moments are built more on suspense and apprehension rather than cheap "jump out at you" type thrills (though, to be fair, there are a couple of those too, and they work just fine thank you).
There are some things that are hard to swallow, particularly how some of the open questions are resolved in a truly coincidental way and there are some plot lines and characters that simply go nowhere and have no resolution. So a little editing might have served this picture well.
Still, I was scared a couple of times, I enjoyed the story, I thought the ending was fun (even though I saw it coming about 45 minutes into the film) and I found myself pleasantly entertained at the end of the movie. Lastly, and this is rare, the alternate ending wasn't as good as the ending they went with which was ambiguous and open-ended rather than definitively closed. Nice touch.