Directed by Mike Flanagan
Indie horror has been pretty hit and miss for me over the years, and it’s because of this that I rarely get high hopes when I dive into the next one. And as I’ve mentioned in the past, I can no longer trust trailers thanks to movies like The Apparition and Chernobyl Diaries, which promised good things but failed to deliver.
Enter Absentia, a movie from Second Sight Entertainment that to me also had a trailer that did a good job of making the movie seem like a good time. This of course made me reluctant to get excited for it until I finally got around to watching the movie itself. Before I start the review I’d like to take the opportunity to thank Dina at Aim Publicity for a review disc of the movie so I can talk about it to you fine people.
Tricia (Courtney Bell) is a woman whose husband Daniel mysteriously disappeared seven years ago. In all time she refused to give up hope that one day he might come back to her, despite all the possible scenarios she has conjured up in that time. Her sister Callie, who is in the middle of getting her own life on track, arrives in town to comfort Tricia and help her get through the process of declaring Daniel “dead in absentia”.
During this time strange things are occurring. Tricia has been having nightmares involving a darker, more disturbing version of Daniel, as well as seeing him at random times during the day before immediately disappearing. Callie’s troubles begin when running into what seems like a homeless man in a tunnel she was jogging through. This man (played by Doug Jones) is rambling strange things that seemingly make no sense to her. Callie returns later to bring him food, only to find the tunnel empty. Later she begins to find piles of random jewellery around the house where she can find it. Eventually, the day comes where Tricia finally signs the documentation to declare her husband dead. But where it seems that this helps her finally move on with her life, something happens that totally turns everything on its head.
Absentia has been one of the better indie horror movies I’ve seen lately. The pain that Tricia endured for the seven years her husband was missing, and her attempts to get her life back on track, affected even my normally cold heart. It can’t be easy for anyone going through such a situation, and I thought Courtney Bell handled the role very well. I also enjoyed Katie Parker’s performance as Callie. While she doesn’t exactly look like she could be Bell’s sister, they sure could act like they were sisters. And I thought she was also very good with her facial expressions during various situations in the movie. Dave Levine, who played Detective Mallory, did a decent enough job. There were a couple of moments where he seemed to have trouble with line delivery, but nothing that really ruined it for me. Needless to say, Doug Jones was great in his role. It was just too bad that his cameo was as small as it was.
The movie itself gets pretty creepy at times. There are a few jump scares to be had, but unlike most jump scares, most in Absentia are not accompanied by loud-ass musical stings. I still found them to be effective, partly because music stings in jump scares annoy me more-so than scare me. Otherwise it was slower, more atmospheric style scares. I found that the music somewhat enhanced the scenes, but for the most part it was the same musical number over and over. While it didn’t irritate me personally, some might get sick of hearing it after a while.
Then there is the source of the strange happenings going on. I’ve watched Absentia twice now and I still don’t know how I feel about what’s causing the trouble. I admit I certainly didn’t expect it, and unpredictability is always a plus to me. It’s probably because we never learn a whole lot about it, and that’s why I can’t decide. I’ll leave it to you to watch and decide for yourself.
In the end, for a movie with a budget of approximately $70,000 that was shot in just 15 days, Absentia overall is a well acted, well-shot, and creepy little movie. For those of you who are like me and are interested in special features, the DVD/Blu-Ray comes with the following:
- 2 audio commentaries, one with Director/Producers and with Director/Cast
- ‘Absentia: A Retrospective’ documentary
- Camera test
- Deleted scenes
So I fully recommend you watch for yourself and appreciate what was accomplished with so little time and money. For you U.K. horror lovers, Absentia will be released on DVD/Blu-Ray on July 7th, so keep an eye out for it. Rest in peace.
Macabre Rating: 4 out of 5 stars