Alejandro Amenabar is a master manipulator of mood that, in his finer moments, takes us to the heart of the matter. In this, he is comparable to M. Night Shyamalan. But what worked in the enclosed unreality of THE OTHERS doesn't work here: Small Town American milieu. The characters are unconvincing, as if solemnly reverse-engineered from Hollywood cliches into realism. Instead of realism derived from reality with which the artist is familiar, we get the mere designer realism fabricated by the way of coarsening dime-a-dozen cliches about rural America and religious culture. It's like affluent people buying 'grungy' or 'worn' clothes from the fashion industry. REGRESSION suffers the same fate as PRISONERS directed by the French-Canadian Denis Villeneuve. Their vision of American Gothic is based on movies, TV, and urban legends. Likewise, no amount of hamfisted realism in THE DEER HUNTER can shrug off Cimino's ludicrous Tolstoy-Visconti treatment of material that called for intimate detail than epic scale.
If THE OTHERS worked in mode of morbid chic, REGRESSION aims at social commentary that seems off-base in a film so waxed over with style.
That said, REGRESSION is a timely movie in the age of Jackie Coakley & Haven Monahan, Emma Sulkowicz the Mattress Girl, the KKK sightings at Oberlin college, the sheer lunacy of Camps 'Rape Culture' hysteria, Black Lives Matter outrage, Putin as New Hitler, and ridiculous fear of Sharia Law taking over America. And let's not forget Americans think 25% of the population is homosexual or transsexual.
The boy in THE SIXTH SENSE says 'ghosts see what they want to see'. Well, it can happen to real individuals too. Indeed, to entire communities and even nations. Though the hysteria in REGRESSION is checked before it gets totally out of hand, we do live in a society where the media, academia, and government are in the business, even mission, to bury reality with the Narrative. And these Narratives are so pervasive and relentless that entire colleges are under the impression that white males(instead of black males) pose the main sexual threats and that most blacks are being killed by 'racist' white police officers. Among Conservatives who fear being labeled 'racist', 'antisemitic', or 'homophobic', there is the easy scapegoating of Muslims as the source of all ills.
REGRESSION is less of a film than THE EXORCIST but smarter on the theme of evil. In Blatty and Friedkin's movie, evil is obvious. He, she, or it pukes all over and looks wicked and gross. In REGRESSION, evil permeates through hearts and minds without notice. Even people who think they are pursuing justice or doing penance are caught up in the evil web that, instead of having a single source, emanates from the vanity and egotism of everyone. Evil arises from distrust but also from trust. From lack of faith but also from faith that turns everything into a matter of black and white. In other words, there is no identifiable Evil. Rather, evil is the sum of all the pieces of broken lives aspiring for escapist dreams that turn into nightmare.
It's too bad that Amenabar got excessively caught up in style(impressive as it is, especially in the hypnosis scenes that almost bear comparison with Kubrick and Kobayashi), because REGRESSION is a most relevant movie in a world where the Narrative has so many people hallucinating a faux-reality of goblins and spooks as imagined and sensationalized by the globalist media.