Dana reviews the new horror film, Reunion.
Reunion, a film by Shawn Chou, pulls no punches at its outset – it reads like a made-for-television horror drama, and it sets itself up with limited imagination, but a lot of heart. It weaves a converging narrative as gracefully as its genre allows, and while it won’t stand out as great cinema, it tries to make up for its faults with a pair of central characters in a relationship endearing enough to care about. While it doesn’t quite accomplish what it appears to set out to do, it does give its audience a moderately interesting ride.
Brad Norton (Jack Turner), once a rock musician at the height of popularity, seems to have it all together despite a career nosedive; he and his lovely girlfriend, Carly (Sarah Schreiber), are seen picnicking in an idyllic scene when a spilled bottle of champagne awakens voices of the demons in his past. The couple are beginning a new life in a beautiful new place, but unpacking boxes for a new beginning will mean uncovering a collection of memories from previous lives – often other beginnings, some with abrupt and messy ends.
The spiral unwinds, at first, from Carly’s point of view as she tends to mental patients in a hospital full of strangely dispassionate and negligent staff. There are underlying tones of sexual harassment and inappropriateness which the film seems to want to explore further than it does; many of the characters serve as outright caricatures to offset the gentle integrity of Carly and paint her as a reasonable protagonist. It is hardly subtle writing, but it does what it’s meant to: She is clearly the only really competent and caring person working with the patients, and we need to see her as altruistic and selfless to read her involvement in the lives of difficult patient Mia, who only seems to respond well to her – and, ultimately, Brad, who loves her but has buried secrets which manifest in nightmarish flashbacks. But Carly serves mainly as a catalyst for the tripping of the plot, and she doesn’t get the story she deserves.
When we are first introduced to her, Mia (Maria Olsen) appears to be a typical near-catatonic schizophrenic, sullenly attempting to play a solo game of ‘Connect Four’. The image we see of her doesn’t quite match up with the terrifying, gory drawings found in her file, or in the obsessive fixation she has on magazine clippings featuring Brad Norton and his music career; she is treated like a willful child, and at first, she holds the illusion of control with steady hands. Genuinely compassionate, Carly is determined to treat her with kindness and a respect fueled by an actual desire to help the woman – an attitude her co-workers rebuff as naïve and unwise. Beneath the veneer of her disease, there is a crouching beast concealed in a vortex of dark voices and inhuman thought driven by delusion and misplaced rage.
There is a Friedrich Nietzsche quote: “There is always some madness in love, but there is always some reason in madness “ which opens the film, and if there is an underlying theme which ties the various notions of what love and family are – and what these can do to a person when they are not what they should be – it is stated nowhere more succinctly; Reunion wants to tell the story of the madness inherent in love and the barriers it both breaks and creates. Were it not so overly dependent upon the clichés inherent in the tropes it espouses, it might actually have succeeded – but because it feels it has to follow the formula, it falls short of the mark. I found myself throughout most of the film more focused on the implausibility of the whole situation rather than engaging with the fate of the characters, which detracts from the experience as a whole, disappointingly canceling out the careful cinematography and thoughtful use of symbolism in several crucial scenes.
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