Repentance and the Spiritual Fear of Damnation


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“What can you say about a movie so horrific that even its title scares people away?” Stephen King asked that question of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a movie that everyone finds terrifying—but for me? The same could be said of Repentance, a 2013 film directed by Phillippe Caland

Little in the film’s plot suggests the type of dread invoked by the Tobe Hooper classic. Repentancestars Anthony Mackie as Tommy Carter, a best-selling author and self-help guru who turned his life around after he and his brother Ben (Mike Epps) survived a life-threatening drunk driving accident. Tommy’s story catches the attention of Angel Sanchez (Forest Whitaker), a disturbed father haunted by visions of his late mother. 

Despite the great sum of money Angel offers, Tommy initially turns down requests for one-on-one counseling. But after learning that Ben owes $12,000 to a violent gang, Tommy takes on Angel as a client. Angel responds well at first; but during a séance, Angel learns that Tommy is not all that he claims. He subjects Tommy to a grisly torture session, hoping to drill the truth out of him. 

If that synopsis makes Repentance sound like a Saw thriller tacked onto an inspirational drama, you’re not far off the mark. The movie’s awkward blend of tones turned off reviewers at the time—but Repentance terrified me, precisely because of its title. 

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