The psychological thriller Condition of Return, which premiered during Suicide Awareness Month, asks audiences an uncomfortable question: were mass shooters actually victims before they became perpetrators? The award-winning film explores the mind and motivations of Eve, a religious woman who guns down a church congregation. The star of Condition of Return, AnnaLynne McCord, did extensive research into the mind of a shooter and drew upon her own experiences with suicide to portray Eve. Below, AnnaLynne talks about why the solutions to mass shootings will involve increased resources for trauma victims and the willingness of Americans to talk more openly about suicide.
Few people disagree that mass shootings are repugnant, and it is understandable that they would lack empathy for someone who kills school children or other people. To stop a tragedy from unfolding, however, it is necessary to look more deeply into the life of a shooter, understand what is happening and why, and intervene before it is too late.
AnnaLynne explains that she read the findings of doctors assigned to the issue by the Department of Justice. “The first thing is that it’s public suicide – the shooter wants to go out, quite literally, with a bang,” she says. “They feel they weren’t seen while they were alive, so maybe they will be seen when they die. They don’t plan to get out alive. Neither does my character, Eve.”
Going deeper, then, is crucial. Why, exactly, did the person feel they were invisible? That answer, while incredibly complex and unique to every shooter, typically leads to unresolved trauma and mental health issues. It also reveals something vitally important: missed opportunities for intervention, which could have changed the course of future events. After all, if a person gets the help they need, then they will be less likely to pick up a gun and start shooting.
The challenge for many people, of course, is empathy. Mass shooters are not the only ones who have suffered from trauma – millions are victims of abuse yet never commit suicide and certainly not murder. In playing Eve, AnnaLynne, who once tried to kill herself and believes in gun rights, had to understand that her character was so deeply traumatized that she just snapped.
“She makes choices that I had difficulty coming to terms with, but as someone who has survived [suicidality], I know that journey,” AnnaLynne reflects. “When someone like Eve has one horrible experience after another, sometimes they reach a breaking point. The difference between life and tragedy can come down to the help they receive.”
Unfortunately, too many individuals who suffer from mental health issues do so in silence. In American society, while much progress has been made, there is still a reluctance to talk about suicide, depression, and other problems. AnnaLynne thinks it is vital to normalize these conversations so that people feel more empowered to reach out for assistance.
“Nothing changes if nothing changes. We must alter the language around topics such as these. We’re invited to dig deeper than the polarized and politicized way we typically navigate this issue. Suicidality is unfathomably pervasive. We must endeavor to face the mental health concerns that lead to mass shootings if we aim to decrease the number of them in our world,” she says. “I hope that Condition of Return can elicit the constructive dialogues we need so that we can build inertia towards creating a safer future overall.”
Condition of Return, a supernatural thriller, was directed by Tommy Stovall, produced by Marc Sterling, and written by John Spare. The film stars AnnaLynne McCord as a churchgoing schoolteacher who makes a deal with the devil in order to escape a life out of control. The all-star cast includes Dean Cain, Natasha Henstridge, and James Russo.
Condition of Return opened for weeklong runs nationwide on September 22, 2023, including in Los Angeles at the Lumiere Music Hall and in Phoenix, Chicago, Denver, Dallas, and Oklahoma City. Movie lovers are able to rent or own the film on Vudu and cable services. Condition of Return also began showing on iTunes, Prime Video, and other TVOD digital platforms on October 23, 2023.
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Watch the official trailer for Condition of Return
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