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"Resurrection" reviewed by Nathan Weinbender

Whenever I see that a new movie is anchored by a Rebecca Hall performance, I move it closer to the top of my queue. She’s the rare star who gravitates toward challenging, intense character pieces: as a news reporter who makes a violent public statement in Christine; as a woman who wanders into the crossfire of a long-simmering rivalry in The Gift, as a widow haunted by literal and metaphorical ghosts in The Night House.

That latter film, released in 2021, is something of a spiritual predecessor to her most recent movie, Resurrection. Both are allegorical thrillers grappling with perception and emotional stability, and both are about women who have emerged from a fog of trauma only to see the darkness of their pasts barreling toward them.

In Resurrection, Hall plays Margaret, a high-ranking executive at a biotech company. She’s the single mother of a teenager daughter and is having a tryst with one of her subordinates. At a work conference, she glances across the room and notices a man who looks eerily familiar, and his presence instantly knocks her off balance. She sees him a few days later, reading the paper on a bench near her office. When she approaches him and firmly tells him to leave her alone, the man (Tim Roth) claims he has no idea who she is.

And he just keeps showing up, and with each new appearance, Margaret becomes more and more agitated. Who is this guy? If he’s a stranger, who does Margaret think he is? And if he is someone from her past, what did he do to distress her so? Her nerves were perhaps already frayed before he showed up, but now she’s completely unraveling.

This is the stuff of classic psychological horror, in which our protagonist comes to doubt what’s right before their eyes — think Repulsion, Don’t Look Now, Carnival of Souls, Jacob’s Ladder. But to provide more details beyond its setup would spoil Resurrection’s stealthiness: It creeps along with an almost suffocating sense of restraint before careening through the guardrails into a blunt and grisly conclusion that’s more in line with Takashi Miike’s legendary shocker Audition.

Resurrection is the second feature from writer-director Andrew Semans, who avoids ostentatious style and lets Hall’s riveting performance pull focus. Much will be made of the film’s shocking ending, but the most arresting moment in the film comes about halfway through when Hall delivers a monologue in a single 7- or 8-minute take that reveals the horrifying source of Margaret’s anxieties. It’s the sort of material — outlandish, but delivered with a straight face — that could easily get bad laughs, but as the camera slowly pushes in on her face, Hall herself pushes her character’s pain and torment into the realm of believability.

Like Alex Garland’s feverish, unhinged nightmare Men from earlier this year, the last act of Resurrection has been painstakingly calibrated to divide audiences into two camps: perplexed and angry. I’ve seen the movie twice, and while I probably liked it more when I was experiencing it cold and in a state of disorientation and disbelief, the second viewing made clearer its themes of overbearing men and of the reverberations of violence. Whether the film’s final revelations work for you, I can’t say. If nothing else, you’ll see a ferociously good Rebecca Hall performance.

Nathan Weinbender is one of the regular co-hosts for Spokane Public Radio’s “Movies 101” heard Friday evenings at 6:30 here on KPBX.