Condition of Return Makes an Ill-Fated Deal with the Devil

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Deals with the Devil have a long and storied history in the horror genre. Movies like Rosemary’s Baby, Needful Things, Anything for Jackson, and numerous others have cemented this trope as a bona fide fan favorite, and Condition of Return continues that long-standing tradition. In fact, when I first heard about this film, it was described to me as a “Faustian drama,” and I was instantly intrigued. I’m a big fan of both drama horror and demonic horror, so naturally, this movie seemed like it would be right up my alley. I requested a screener as soon as I could, and I couldn’t wait to press play and see what devilish delights it had in store for me.

Condition of Return was directed by Tommy Stovall, and it stars AnnaLynne McCord, Dean Cain, Natasha Henstridge, and James Russo. The movie centers around a woman named Eve who enters a church on Easter Sunday and kills multiple people, and when she’s arrested, she says the devil told her to do it.

As you can probably guess, the police aren’t impressed with that defense, so all it gets her is a psychological evaluation. The authorities bring in a mental health professional named Dr. Donald Thomas to assess whether she’s fit to stand trial, and over the course of the film, Eve tells the doctor everything that led up to her heinous crime, including the fateful deal she made with the devil.

Before I say another word, I have to let you know that Condition of Return isn’t strictly a horror film. It’s primarily a drama, and for about the first hour or so, it’s almost entirely devoid of horror. This movie is all about the woman’s conversation with Dr. Thomas, but it’s not just two people sitting in a room and talking. As Eve recounts her troubled past, the film shows these events play out on screen, so it’s not quite as purely dialogue-driven as something like, say, The Artifice Girl.

A woman looking serious
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You actually get to see things happen, but since Condition of Return is a drama, it still relies on the strength of its characters and its story above all else. Like I said, the first hour doesn’t have any action or scares to help carry the load, so if the characters and the story don’t work, the whole thing falls apart.

And unfortunately, that’s exactly what happens. While I enjoyed certain scenes, I found this film pretty boring overall. To be fair, the two leads, AnnaLynne McCord and Dean Cain, do a fairly good job. They’re convincing enough as Eve and Dr. Thomas, so I didn’t dislike their characters.

But I didn’t exactly love them either. Sure, they’re believable, but they don’t have the kind of irresistible charm needed to carry an entire movie. I think they would’ve been fine if there were some scares or a bit of action to help lessen their load, but since the film rests almost entirely on their shoulders, they’re not quite up to the task.

And when we turn to the side characters in Condition of Return, things get even worse. The best of the bunch only have a minuscule amount of screen time, and the ones that get a bigger spotlight are rather shaky. Sometimes I believed them, but other times they felt a bit questionable, so on the whole, I just had a tough time buying into this entire world.

Because of those weak characters, I also had trouble getting into the story. I wasn’t invested in Eve, Dr. Thomas, or anyone else in this movie, so I simply didn’t care what happened to them. In particular, I was completely unmoved when Eve’s life started going south, and that sapped the story of all its emotional impact.

A woman crying
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All that being said, Condition of Return does get a bit better at the one-hour mark. This is when the Faustian elements really come to the fore, and they make for some genuinely horrific moments. However, I don’t want to give you the wrong idea. While there are a handful of tense scenes and a few of them even have some blood, I wouldn’t quite say that this part of the film has actual scares.

It still feels more like a drama than anything else, so even when horrific things happen, they’re not executed the way they would be in a straight-up horror movie. Nevertheless, I still really enjoyed several of those moments, and there were a few times when I was actually quite riveted.

In fact, once the devil became a major player in the story, I immediately sat up straight, and I found myself really anxious to learn more about Eve’s demonic deal. At one point, I even thought I’d end up liking the film overall, but as you might be able to guess, that feeling didn’t last too long.

Even though the third act of Condition of Return has its moments, on the whole, it still suffers from the same problems as the rest of the movie. It’s a drama with characters that aren’t nearly interesting enough to carry the storytelling load, so by the time the credits began to roll, there was no doubt about my overall evaluation of the film. I’m sad to say I didn’t like it, so if you’re looking for some good new horror watch, I suggest you look elsewhere.

Condition of Return is set to hit theaters and VOD on September 22.

One Comment

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  1. I disagree with most of this review. The only thing I agree with is that it’s more of a drama than a horror movie. You I found the characters riveting, especially Eve and was very interested in the flashbacks that show the audience why she made those deals and decisions.
    This movie makes you think about that fine line between good and evil. It makes you question those beliefs you were raised on.
    If you are looking for blood and gore you won’t find it in Condition of Return. If you are looking for a movie where you can talk with your friends afterwards about the different interpretations and what they believe, then you will love it! Pay attention to every single scene and really study the faces – they may turn up in places where you least expect it! I am giving Condition of Return and A!

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Written by JP Nunez

JP Nunez is a lifelong horror fan. From a very early age, he learned to love monsters, ghosts, and all things spooky, and it's still his favorite genre today.

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