Resurrection Filmmaker Andrew Semans on the Powerhouse Performance of Rebecca Hall in His New Thriller

In addition to the Sundance Film Festival being one of the first major film festivals of a given year, it's also known to highlight compelling and unconventional experiences, especially in the world of horror. Arguably one of this year's most talked-about genre films from this year's festival was Resurrection, writer/director Andrew Semans' sophomore effort. Thanks to an electrifying performance by Rebecca Hall, the film is sure to end up on many critics end-of-year lists of best thrillers. Resurrection will be released by IFC Films in theaters on July 29th and On Demand on August 5th. Shudder will be the exclusive streaming home in November.

Margaret (Hall) leads a successful and orderly life, perfectly balancing the demands of her busy career and single parenthood to her fiercely independent daughter Abbie. Everything is under control. But that careful balance is upended when an unwelcome shadow from her past, David (Tim Roth) returns, carrying with him the horrors of Margaret's past. Battling her rising fear, Margaret must confront the monster she's evaded for two decades who has come to conclude their unfinished business. caught up with Semans to talk the new thriller, developing the project, and theories about the film's ending.

(Photo: Heather Radke/IFC Films)  I know one of the references that I saw getting tossed around when other audiences were seeing it was comparisons to Andrzej Żuławski's Possession, and that's one of my all-time favorite movies. When you were approaching this, were there specific influences you had in mind, whether they be specific movies or specific filmmakers that you use to guide the tone of this? Or is it just a comprehensive, every movie you've ever seen influenced this in some way?

Andrew Semans: Well, definitely when we were working on the form of the movie, how we were going to shoot and cut the movie, how it was going to sound, you always, in your conversations with your DP and your designer and your editor and your sound designer and all these things, you have many references that you bring to the table.

When I was writing the movie, I think I was willfully trying not to imitate any particular movies. I was trying to do something that felt very much from the gut, that felt unmediated, that just drew from my unconscious. But, of course, your unconscious is packed with all the movies that you loved and meant so much to you. When I look back on this experience, the movies that really bubble to the surface as being big influences, whether they're apparent or not, are movies like Todd Haynes' Safe, which is one of my favorite movies of all time, which is a big influence on everything I do, or try to do.

[Alan J. Pakula's] Klute was a movie that we talked about a lot in developing the movie. Alan Arkin's Little Murders was also a movie that ... Gordon Willis, just generally speaking, any movie that Gordon Willis shot -- certainly from the '70s -- came up. Oddly, Possession never came up. I love Possession. It is a brilliant movie, but for some reason, it wasn't until I started reading reviews of the movie that mentioned it where I was like, "Oh yeah." That seems like a touchstone that there's some similarities there, but it really ... I mean, it must have been somewhere in the background, I guess, but the thing about Possession, you can't out-Possession Possession. Possession is its own, and so I think that might be something that you just want to leave on the shelf to admire.

Maybe another similarity is just, in the sense that Isabelle Adjani is a force to be reckoned with in Possession, Rebecca is phenomenal in everything and especially this, carrying and driving this whole movie. She's so incredible. I know you've spoken about how well she understood the script and how easy that collaborative process was, but what do you feel that she brought to this movie that wasn't in the script that you just really couldn't have anticipated that just took the movie to a whole new level?

I don't know if it would've been wholly unanticipated because I was a huge Rebecca Hall fan coming into this. But I think what she brings to this script, or what she brings to the movie, rather, that is so essential and really makes it work, if you feel it work, is because she ... I think she brings this to any role, but she brings such a formidable sense of intelligence and such a formidable sense of dignity. No matter what Rebecca does, as a viewer, you're forced to respect her.

She has such power and such a sense of ... She can't be dismissed. You have to deal with her. And she is so muscular in her emotional presentation and in her intelligence that she forces you to take her seriously, no matter what she's doing. That is absolutely essential for this movie, because this movie with someone, an actor who feels lighter weight, or someone who is easily dismissed, the whole thing would fall apart. It would feel ludicrous. You need that anchor in the center of someone that no matter what happens, you are forced to admire. And so I think that's what she does. Does that answer your question?

I think so. I mean, I think we could both talk for quite some time just about how good Rebecca is in all facets. So yeah, I think that works for the sake of time to not even continue that conversation. 

WARNING: Spoilers below for Resurrection

I am coming towards the end of my time here and I haven't come across this yet. It might be out there, but just to dive into full-blown spoiler territory, my whole read on it was that Tim Roth's character wasn't even real. He was a manifestation of her past and it was all in her head. I know that the audience can draw from these movies whatever it is they draw from them, but is there a version of this movie where that idea or that interpretation holds some weight or am I just an insane conspiracy theorist?

You're clearly an insane person. 

No, I'm just kidding. A movie that ends like this, with an ambiguous ending, it was never intended to be a riddle to be solved. There isn't a correct interpretation. I encourage the viewer to just go with whatever feels most coherent and interesting to them, and if it's satisfying thematically and emotionally, great, I'm all for it, if it works for you. So, no, I would never dismiss somebody's ideas about what's happening in this movie out-of-hand and say they're wrong. I would just say, "Go with it." I certainly have my own ideas, but I just don't want to enforce them on viewers who actually got something out of the movie.

I fully believe that every single audience member is going to have a different interpretation, and in preparing for this interview, I was like, "Am I insane? I'm not seeing anyone talk about how Tim Roth wasn't real from the very first meeting in the movie."

Well, I mean, I've definitely heard that from people who had read the script and I think it does track. I think you can watch it with that in mind. I don't think there's anything that would unequivocally contradict that. So, I don't know. Yeah, I say, go with God.

Well, I appreciate your validation that I'm not completely insane. That's very kind of you.

Listen, I don't know. This doesn't prove that you're not completely insane. I'm just saying...

In this realm, in this regard, the evidence of my interpretation does not validate my insanity, but there's other factors out there that could absolutely validate it.

Yeah. I really don't know you. So I don't want to say that you're not a totally f-cking crazy person.

Well, there's the headline, "Resurrection Director Says I'm a F-cking Crazy Person."

No, no, no, no. I'm saying that I just can't rule that out. I'm not asserting that you're crazy.

Hey, this is journalism. All I got to do is put what you said in quotes and toss it in a headline and you're going to get cancelled. So, just get prepared.

Oh, so it's just a matter of time.

Resurrection will be released by IFC Films in theaters on July 29th and On Demand on August 5th. Shudder will be the exclusive streaming home in November.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. You can contact Patrick Cavanaugh directly on Twitter.