Ethan Hawke and Emma Watson co-star in this chilling movie on Satanic ritual abuse

Anyone that lived through the 1980s will remember the panic and media hysteria over Satanic ritual abuse. It was covered in bestsellers and on television news reports. In a different media environment before the Internet, credible reports arose that described practicing Satanists physically abusing children across the country in occult rituals. The topic’s popularity eventually waned in the media and skepticism that Satanic ritual abuse ever occurred on any wide scale became the accepted conclusion by most sane people.

Director Alejandro Amenábar’s Regression explores the subject of Satanic ritual abuse as a chilling psychological thriller. Starring Ethan Hawke and Emma Watson, the dark movie approaches the subject as a highly stylized, dramatized account of a story based on “real” events. Taking place in Minnesota in 1990, a teenage girl played by Emma Watson accuses her father of repeated molestation. A driven small-town detective played by Ethan Hawke investigates the case, slowly losing himself in the process. When the detective brings in a professor pushing something called regression therapy as a means to find repressed memories in the victims, what truths will he find?

There were two real ways one could approach a dark subject like child abuse and the topic of Satanic ritual abuse in a movie. Make it a docudrama, sticking plainly to the procedural facts in the case. Alejandro Amenábar goes in a different direction, turning Regression into a haunting, moody thriller that deconstructs the social forces that made the idea of Satanic ritual abuse such an attractive solution to so many people seeking answers. He’s incredibly effective at establishing Regression’s depressing, dark world. This is a slick, polished thriller that toys with its audience for two fantastic acts, only to arrive at the inevitable conclusion.

Hawke has to carry much of the film’s weight on his back…

If you weren’t around for the 1980s, it’s hard for younger people to understand the rise of mass hysteria over Satanic ritual abuse. It is something which most now don’t believe ever possibly existed beyond a few isolated cases. Regression turns those running threads and weaves them into a tight, coherent thriller with fine lead performances from Ethan Hawke and Emma Watson. Hawke has to carry much of the film’s weight on his back, as Regression is really the story of his obsessed detective going overboard.

Regression will see a litany of mixed reactions despite its extraordinary craftsmanship and entertaining performances. Older viewers that remember how the subject turned out will likely find some of its twists a bit too predictable, if still engaging. They may also take issue with the creative liberties taken by Regression, boldly visualizing a number of nightmarish dream sequences that blur the line between fantasy and reality. Regression is a harrowing thriller with stylish direction that goes to uncomfortable places for some audiences.

Regression Blu-ray screen shot 11


Starz/Anchor Bay distributes this Weinstein Company film on a BD-25 in shocking clarity and fine detail. This is an impressive, detailed Hi-Def presentation.

The precise atmosphere is a carefully managed palette of drained primary colors, drenched in steely blues and greys. The video is extremely sharp and possesses intense definition. One of the better-looking thrillers I’ve seen this past decade.

The 106-minute main feature is encoded in AVC, presented in Regression’s pleasing 2.39:1 aspect ratio. If there are problems with the nearly flawless 1080p video, a bit of banding pops up due to the fairly average compression parameters. It is the only issue marring the perfect video.


An active 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack offers up a rich sonic atmosphere for Regression. This is quality sound design featuring a delicate surround mix, boasting a wide range of immersive elements. The dialogue-driven scenes sparkle with clarity and pristine fidelity, while a nice bed of directional cues fill out the audio. The mix comes alive in the most dramatic moments, offering a sense of menace.

Optional English SDH and Spanish subtitles display in a white font, remaining inside the scope frame at all times.


An UltraViolet digital copy is included. The special features are nothing more than a bunch of EPK featurettes, though they include short interviews with Ethan Hawke, Emma Watson and Alejandro Amenábar. I am surprised Alejandro Amenábar didn’t include a commentary, that would have made a lot of sense. His script is thoughtful and reflects a man that has studied the subject of satanic ritual abuse deeply.

Ethan Hawke – Bruce’s Obsession (02:04 in HD)

Emma Watson – The Complexity of Angela (02:30 in HD)

The Cast of Regression (02:26 in HD) – Actor David Thewlis pops up in this featurette.

The Vision of Regression (02:43 in HD)

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

  • Regression
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A thriller depicting the hysteria and fear generated by Satanic ritual abuse back in the 1980s.

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