absentia

Phase 4 Films
2011
R

There are fates worse than death.

Tricia’s husband Daniel has been missing for seven years.  Her younger sister Callie comes to live with her as the pressure mounts to finally declare him “dead in absentia”.  As Tricia sifts through the wreckage and tries to move on with her life, Callie finds herself drawn to an ominous tunnel near the house that might also be connected to other neighborhood disappearances.  Soon it becomes clear that the ancient force at work in the tunnel might have set its sights on Callie and Tricia…and that Daniel might be suffering a fate far worse than death in its grasp.

After the first ten, fifteen minutes of watching Absentia, my first thought was, “this is going to be another one of those independent horror movies.”  You know the kind.  The kind where the heart’s in the right place, but half the budget was clearly blown on the DVD cover art itself, and is rather tedious to sit through.  I mean, the whole look and feel of this – from the video used, to the droning two-note organ music cues, to the acting at times – just dripped low budget.  But, I sat through this entirely, and…tell the truth, Absentia isn’t all that bad.

Once it gets going, the story has a nice slow burn to it.  And the characters do have a certain chemistry between them, and also competent acting as well.  I must commend this for having some very decent effects, low budget and practical and well executed.  Also, the story is told in a way that gives it kind of a psychological bent, like maybe the wacky scary stuff is going on in certain people’s heads, and there’s speculation as to the reliability of the person relaying the story.  It’s left ambiguous, and I like that.  Nicely done.

On the other hand, though, the movie does tend to drag a bit, and the drama is rather thick at times, making this feel more like a movie-length soap opera.  The constantly droning organ music gets annoying, and while I did mention in the last paragraph that the actors were competent, that still didn’t stop them from slipping into a wooden monotone at times.  But then…the ending is interesting.  I’ll give it that.

Overall, I came out of watching Absentia not feeling like I completely wasted my time.  This is more of a diamond in the rough, with some genuine creepy moments, and was pretty effective with what they had to work with.  I’d say worth at least one viewing.  Bring snacks.

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