M.L. Miller here! As I go into the tenth year of reviewing horror films, I wanted to go back to the beginning and repost some of the films I loved starting with the year I began reviewing the genre officially October 1, 2010 through October 1, 2011. I have posted my best of lists in the past, but a lot of those old reviews haven’t seen the light of day since they were first posted many moons ago. Being the OCD person that I am, I have also reworked the list, looking back at my own choices and shifting them around a bit. I’ve even added a few that I might have missed or looked over from the year in question. So if you think you know how these lists are going to turn out, you don’t!

How did I compile this list? I simply looked through films released between October 1st 2010 and September 30, 2011 and worked and reworked the list until I had the magic number, 31. Again, I never call myself any kind of expert in horror. I simply watch a lot of horror films and love writing about them. Don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!

Released on July 1, 2011. Available on Video On Demand, digital download, and DVD/BluRay!

#20 – ABSENTIA (2011)

Directed by Mike Flanagan
Written by Mike Flanagan
Starring Katie Parker, Courtney Bell, Dave Levine, & Doug Jones
Find out more about this film here.

Actually, I owe ABSENTIA a lot. When the teaser trailer was sent to me a waay back in 2010 by director Mike Flanagan, I posted it on my former homesite AICN. This led to me posting a regular weekly horror column, which eventually morphed into MLMILLERWRITES after I left the site. Back then, after seeing ABSENTIA, 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 years since I did that and since then Mike Flanagan has become kind of a big deal (releasing DOCTOR SLEEP last week and helming the highly successful THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE Netflix series). I had no idea I would be one of the first to talk about his premiere film all those years ago. Turns out, it looks like 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 faded ones, and giving a clear indication that she’s been doing this for quite some time. We find out that Tricia’s sister, Callie (Katie Parker) is coming 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 is most likely dead. 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 straight on 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 required. Both actors playing the sisters do a great job of making you feel for them and the pain they are overwhelmed with.

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 there is a series of disappearances leading back hundreds of years all around a tunnel running under a road across from Tricia’s home. No one believes it at first, but 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 the cause of these disappearances.

Director/writer Mike Flanagan, does a fantastic job of juggling both the dramatic and fantastic moments. There’s a real sense of terror as these ghosts try to warn the living of the bug-like slime monster that is staking them and peppered throughout are some classic moments of fear. Flanagan never really shows you what the monster looks like, but his mastery of making the most of unknown depths of darkness 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. If you’ve seen DOCTOR SLEEP or GERLAD’S GAME or HUSH or OCCULUS and wonder when Mike Flanagan’s mean streak of hit horrors began, check out ABSENTIA for the starting point of an impressive career in horror that keeps on getting better and better.




THE 2010-2011 COUNTDOWN!


#20 – ABSENTIA
#21 – BEREAVEMENT
#22 – RUBBER
#23 – GRAVE ENCOUNTERS
#24 – STAKE LAND
#25 – WAKE WOOD
#26 – LONG PIGS
#27 – HUSK
#28 – YELLOWBRICKROAD
#29 – MONSTERS
#30 – LA HORDE
#31 – THE VIOLENT KIND


M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.

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