Directed by Mike Flanagan
Written by Mike Flanagan
Starring Katie Parker, Courtney Bell, Dave Levine, & Doug Jones
Actually, I owe ABSENTIA a lot. When the teaser trailer was sent to me a while back, I posted it on AICN and suggested that I was thinking of doing an AICN HORROR column. Most of the responses were pretty positive, and I loved being able to talk about a film that was relatively unknown and full of potential given what I saw in the trailer. Well, it’s been a few months and I had a chance to check out the entire movie, and I think I backed the right horse.
ABSENTIA opens silently as Tricia (played by a very pregnant Courtney Bell) wanders around the neighborhood posting MISSING posters on telephone poles, replacing ones faded giving a clear indication that she’s been doing this for quite some time. We find out that Tricia’s sister, Callie (played by Katie Parker) is coming to visit her to be with her for the birth of her child. The tone of the film is very serious and as the sisters go through the motions of grieving the disappearance of Tricia’s husband and accepting the fact that he’s most likely dead. This isn’t a bunch of hyperactive teens crying while a boy band ballad is twinging in the background, ABSENTIA is a mature look at loss through the lens of a horror film. It reminded more of the tone of Alejandro González Iñárritu’s 21 GRAMS than any horror film I’ve seen, dealing with death in such a dour and serious manner. ABSENTIA works because the actors, though I’ve never seen them in anything before, have the chops to pull off the serious weight of dread that permeates the film. Both actors playing the sisters do a great job of making you feel for them and feel their pain.
But though the mood is deathly serious, there’s a lot of fun to be had with ABSENTIA. Turns out Tricia’s husband wasn’t the first to disappear and that there is a series of disappearances leading back hundreds of years all around the same tunnel running under a road across from Tricia’s home. Though no one believes it at first, when more folks start disappearing and ghosts of the abducted start showing up (including a very creepy Doug Jones), Tricia and Callie are forced to consider that some kind of creature is taking these people.
Director/writer Mike Flanagan, does a fantastic job of juggling both the dramatic and the fantastic moments here. There’s a real sense of terror as these ghosts try to warn the living of the bug-like monster that is staking them and peppered throughout are some true classic moments of fear. Flanagan never really shows you what the monster looks like, but his mastery of making the most of the dark is near perfect. Though I really wanted to see the beast, what I did see was pretty damn terrifying.
ABSENTIA is not your typical modern horror film. It’s not dumbed down. It’s not badly acted. It doesn’t feature tired clichéd monsters. What it does have is powerfully scary moments, themes with heft, and an impact that will leave you remembering this film long after the credits.