Friday, November 24, 2017

The Return

The Return
Greydon Clark

The Return seems to want to capitalize on a few fads at the same time.  Interest in alien abductions and cattle mutilations continued to be strong in the early 1980s, although the whole phenomenon of UFOs was taking on a much more sinister turn thanks to a strong dose of cold war paranoia, and a view of a nuclear future that was so dire even the aliens weren’t going to save us from ourselves. A much lighter fad, thanks to the incredible success of Smokey and the Bandit (1977) among other films, was the public’s desire to see good 'ole boy American southerners and some car chases. The Return happily indulges both these things.

What The Return doesn’t indulge in is much of plot. Kids are picked and deposited by a flying saucer, and twenty-five years later, unbeknownst to our characters, a string of cattle mutilations draws these people back together again. That’s about it. The movie tries to build a little mystery around the connection between Jennifer (Cybil Shepard) and Wayne (Jean-Michael Vincent), but it is obvious what that connection is. The Return does sport an unusually strong cast including Raymond Burr, Martin Landau, and Vincent Schiavelli. Martin Landau appears to having the most of fun out the entire cast, and I would have enjoyed seeing his bumbling sheriff handling the case on his own.

Laser hair removal can be quite painful.
Speaking of bumbling, one of the irritating elements of The Return is that it forces the local cattle baron’s family to be so terminally stupid that they think Jennifer’s scientific instruments (little black boxes with lights and an antenna), are behind the string of cattle deaths. Somehow a blinking box is causing cows to eviscerate themselves and core out their own buttholes. That doesn’t exactly sell them as a threat. On top of that the alien plot to butcher the local livestock and a few townsfolk, doesn’t make much sense either. In an film with an alien presence, it’s fine for the motives of these beings to not make sense to us, they are alien after all, but in The Return it feels like they have no motive at all, they just really like cow bits.

The Return does show some pretty grisly murders, and I was surprised at how graphic they were.  The killing implement owes more than a little to lightsabers, just as nearly all of the scenes of the UFO could have been lifted straight out of Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). Still, they are competently made and it’s always a treat to see well done practical effects. Those who come into this film hoping for some bug-eyed aliens or horrors from beyond space are going to feel disappointed; no actual aliens make an on screen appearance.

Moonlighting 2099
The Return isn’t great, but it isn’t terrible either. It is a middle-of-the-road, alien movie with some tacked-on car chases and just enough of a slasher vibe to make it a little more interesting. You might watch it once, but I doubt you’ll return to it.

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