11th May2022

‘Don’t Return’ DVD Review

by Alain Elliott

Stars: Richard Harmon, Echo Andersson, Sara Thompson, Marina Stephenson Kerr, Erik Athavale, Gwendolyn Collins, Zoe Fish, Kristen Sawatzky, Adam Brooks | Written by BJ Verot, Ken Janssens | Directed by BJ Verot

Don’t Return focuses on a college student who, after the death of his father, returns to his family home (the opposite of the UK retitling of this film!) along with his best friend and girlfriend, only to uncover some bad memories from his childhood that he didn’t even realise were there.

Much of Don’t Return feels as formulaic and uninspiring as the title but the are glimmers of what could have been. Its shining light might just be its two leads. Richard Harmon plays Rodger, the brilliant mathematical college student returning home. It’s a fairly understated performance, the character isn’t very flash and Harmon is, like his co-lead Echo Andersson, best when the scenes are at their most emotional. I think if the script and dialogue was a bit more dynamic and based itself on the pair’s relationship, we would have got even better performances and a better movie.

I was surprised to see Andersson had such little acting experience because like I have just said, with the most emotional and tense dialogue is when she was at her best. The relationship between the two characters wasn’t anything new (two best friends from childhood, who now as adults are falling in love – the female character here is the one who has always known it). I’m sure Andersson will only improve and go on to bigger and better things.

That’s not to say Don’t Return doesn’t have anything going for it. It has a couple of moments that actually, if only briefly, scared me. They did generally feature a ‘ghost’ suddenly appearing on screen accompanied by a loud noise, I’m sure some people will dislike this ‘cheap’ scare but it does work. The ghost itself isn’t the thing that makes it scary, it’s just a very stereotypical death-like figure that hovers quickly through scenes. The CGI used for this and some other sci-fi-effects does the job well enough. The budget isn’t high so it’s not great but it’s not terrible either.

The writer does try to throw in a few twists along the way with who or what the ghost turns out to be and the reasoning behind it all but there’s also a lot of horror movie logic behind many of the character’s decision-making. You even have Jordan continuously telling Rodger that they should leave the house again and again, while his only real reply is ‘I have to do this’. If the movie was better overall I could forget this but when there’s plenty more to complain about, it feels like another thing that could have been explained better, or at least with some drive to it.

It’s hard to see what kind of movie-goer will really enjoy this. Not enough science fiction for sci-fi fans, while horror movie lovers might get a bit uninterested for all but a small amount of Don’t Return. But it can be admired for at least trying to add more of a story to what could be an even more run-of-the-mill ghost chasing movie. Unfortunately, it’s just not enough.

Don’t Return is released on DVD on May 16th courtesy of High Fliers.

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