Journalist Ariel (Amanda Righetti) hangs out with her photographer friend Paul (Tom Riley), oblivious to the fact that he fancies her. Ariel, in fact, seems oblivious to practically everything, as she is so involved in her work. She's too busy to even reply to her sister Sara's various attempts at contacting her.
Unfortunately Sara really needed Ariel's help and without it is found dead, having presumably shot herself.
Ariel is understandably overcome with guilt and asks Paul to accompany her to Sara's apartment, where she hopes to see if there's anything to give her an indication of what it was that Sara was desperate to talk to her about. Upon arriving at the apartment, Paul and Ariel are alarmed to find the walls covered in newspaper cuttings relating to the time when Steven Price went insane in an old house and killed several people a few years earlier.
Ariel explains to Paul that Sara was one of the few survivors of that fateful night, and had always maintained that Price was not guilty ... but that the house was haunted.
It's at this point that Dr Richard Hammer (Steven Pacey) turns up at the apartment with his girlfriend Michelle (Cerina Vincent) and student assistant Kyle (Andre Lee Potts). Sara had got in touch with Hammer a fortnight earlier telling him she'd found an ancient relic - the sacred Baphomet Idol - which he had spent half his life looking for. According to Hammer, Sara had obtained a journal from Price's house that stated the Idol was hidden in the house, and she had arranged to lead Hammer to it.
Hammer leaves when Ariel refuses to believe his story, but not before he warns her of others who want to get their hands on the Idol, and if they become aware that Sara knew of it's whereabouts they'll assume Ariel knows too ... so she may be in danger!
Sure enough, when Ariel returns home that evening she discovers a parcel from Sara with the journal inside. Before she can act, her door bursts open. She and Paul are confronted by a gun-toting gang of heavies, led by the vicious Desmond (Erik Palladino).
Desmond insists that Paul and Ariel accompany his gang to Price's house, in search of the Idol. Predictably, Hammer and his friends have the same idea and the two groups meet in the old building's disused hallway. Desmond has the guns and the journal, so he calls the shots from hereon in.
However, Ariel's insistence that the house - a former mental asylum - is haunted by the souls of inmates tortured in experiments by the late Dr VannaCutt (Jeffrey Combs, RE-ANIMATOR), finally starts to ring true as a series of bizarre events unfold.
Lesbian ghosts seduce one member of Desmond's team; Vannacutt reappears to slice someone's face off with a scalpel; the house goes into automatic lockdown, shutting the hapless gold-diggers in with the violent apparitions ... not a good night to go hunting for Idols.
Although stunted by some poor acting and an unintelligent script, RETURN offers plenty of energy and some imaginative set-piece scenes. The roving camerawork is occasionally inspired and ensures along with the slick editing that the pace remains brisk.
The gore FX work well (although some of it is CGI), and the film is surprisingly bloody.
While RETURN is light on scares and doesn't achieve the atmosphere of dread it's clearly striving for in it's numerous "let's split up and go searching through dark corridors" scenes, it does at least boast ghosts that look to have walked straight out of an Asian horror film, and violence firmly set in the brutal SAW/HOSTEL tradition. Unoriginal then, but at least showing that director Victor Garcia (SLAUGHTER) and crew have researched their target audience.
The film looks great in a pin-sharp 2.40:1 anamorphic transfer. Images are bright, crystal clear and vividly coloured. Flesh tones are accurate in what is a stunning transfer.
The 5.1 audio is available in several languages including, of course, the original English soundtrack. It's a well-balanced, loud and clear mix. Optional subtitles are available in 10 languages including English.
The look of Warner's disc is pretty unexciting. Static menu pages don't offer much, but we do get a scene-selection menu allowing access to the main feature via 22 chapters.
Extras are largely a waste of time.
First, we have a series of "Confessionals" - various cast members speaking to the camera, in character, explaining their part in the plot and how they feel about the "situation". Silly and phoney, it's made even more annoying by flash-edits of scenes from the film. Are these meant to be jolting? All in all, these 18 snippets last 16 minutes.
"The Search for an Idol: Dr Richard Hammer's Quest" is another redundant featurette, with Pacey in character a Hammer, explaining how he's devoted his life to finding the mystical relic. At 3 minutes in length, at least it's brief.
Why the filmmakers have bothered with the above, instead of preparing some on-set Making Of is quite beyond me. Idiots.
Next up are 4 additional scenes which run for 8 minutes in total.
Finally we get a music promo clip for Mushroomhead's surprisingly melodic "Simple Survival". The song's pretty decent, while the video is embarrassing.
All the extras excluding the music video come equipped with optional subtitles in a variety of 10 languages, including English.
RETURN is not as bad as it should or could have been, Worth a watch, if not a buy.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by Warner Home Video|
|Region 2 - PAL|
|see main review|