Blood in the Snow Film Festival Review: The Return (2020)

Directed by: BJ Verot. Starring: Richard Harmon, Sara Thompson, Echo Andersson. Runtime: 90 min. Minor spoilers follow.

When brilliant student Rodger (Richard Harmon) learns of the death of his father, he returns to his childhood home with his girlfriend, Beth (Sara Thompson), and his long-time best friend Jordan (Echo Andersson) to set affairs in order. Rodger then begins to investigate the details of the family tragedy; and soon discovers a malevolent force that has been haunting his family since his childhood.

The dynamics between the three characters holds some intrigue; as Beth is mistrusting of Rodger’s relationship with Jordan as Jordan has always been around and they are so close. Jordan has an outside-looking-in vibe about her throughout, and the chemistry between the group is great. The relationship between Rodger and Jordan feels more layered and Harmon and Andersson are believable as best friends. Acting-wise, they’re all strong, with Harmon as Rodger playing more to just reacting to the situation and then Andersson as Jordan providing some of the comic relief and hacking skills.

The film, written and directed by BJ Verot, is a premise that’s nothing necessarily new on paper at first glance, though the idea of someone being haunted from a past they can’t remember is always interesting to me and I like how childhood fears and imaginary friends come into play here. This film actually has a good share of creepy moments throughout, especially when the villain gets into the bed with the couple then disappears. The sound design is strong and the way that the actual ghost moves and looks is great. It looks wispy and always active, and I found this one creepier than the other villain that makes an appearance.

Richard Harmon and Echo Andersson in The Return. (Courtesy of Blood in the Snow Film Festival.)

Learning about the mystery of what happened to the father is cool, too, as well as just learning about what happened to the rest of the family, as Rodger starts to remember things from his childhood that had been repressed. The cinematography, by Brad Crawford, looks strong in general but what director BJ Verot and Crawford are able to do with the style of these memories as they become clearer in Rodger’s mind looks visually great.

This all leads into a third act that leans heavier into science fiction. The only thing keeping it from feeling completely random are some mathematical equations we see throughout the film as Rodger’s mother was a genius, but it’s a third act twist that could turn some viewers off because it feels like it loses its focus on the paranormal. While the very last few minutes don’t thrill as much as the rest of the film, I was able to buy into Verot’s twist because it’s a very cool idea. It’s also what helps separate The Return from other haunted house films and makes it feel unique.

Score: 75/100

This film had its Canadian Premiere as part of the Blood in the Snow Film Festival on November 5, 2020. Canadian audiences can watch the encore screening on Super Channel Fuse at 12 a.m.

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