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After the mega low budget success of Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity along comes Absentia, another minimalist horror genre job. It was partly paid for by a crowd-funding website with over 300 people raising $25,000 of its actual $75,000 budget, TV director Mike Flannigan going cap in hand for the rest of the cash from Argentina. It looks ok on that budget although the rather oddball concept of a ‘possessed underpass’ not so good an investment. But the equally low budget critics and film awards loved it, garnering 24 nominations.
LA girl Tricia (Courtney Bell) is six months pregnant, her little sister Callie (Katie Parker) coming around to visit as she prepares to sell her house. Tricia’s husband Daniel (Morgan Peter Brown) mysteriously disappeared 7 years ago and she is finally ready to sign the absentia forms, the official document that declares a missing person legally deceased.
Haunted by nightmares and hallucinations she uses yoga and attends a shrink to find some sort of calm. Callie also has episodes, a recovering addict. Callie uses jogging to control her demons and when she cuts through a gloomy underpass near Tricia’s house she passes a prone man, mistaking him for an addict as he is ashen faced and delirious. But things begin to get weird for the sisters, strange warbling noises in their house leading to objects from other missing people appearing.
Tricia calls the cops, Det. Mallory (Dave Levine) on the case from day one of Daniels disappearance, taking a shine to Tricia along the way, hence the pregnancy. But the moment she signs away Daniel he wants to come back from wherever he has been, slumped outside her doorstep covered in blood and traumatized. Later the police inform her wherever Daniel has been for seven years he has animal bones in his stomach. He thinks he has only been away for ten minutes. The underpass appears to be the number one culprit for the strange disappearances.
There is no doubt Absentia is flawed and the acting its weakest point but the director has real talent. When you watch films like this you witness the birth of that talent, rather than put them down. These low budget guys can make something from nothing and that’s what filmmaking is 100% about.
Suggested horror and peril from drug use and grief works well and it’s left up to the viewer to decide if what they are seeing is really supernatural.
It’s genuinely edgy and tense and feels remarkably atmospheric for the budget and the idea. I’m sure the director must have been smoking something to come up with the idea of a demonic underpass.
As I say the acting is a bit amateurish and the cast unknown but it is all about the mystery and creepiness here. It’s shot in wobbly digicam and so has that suburban look and feel the way Paranormal Activity did and so makes it more credible in its nondescript suburban settings.
Myself and a friend are currently working our way through HMV's horror movie section, with the latest movie we watched being Absentia. I hadn't heard of this film before, and the only reason we really ended up watching it was because it had what appeared to be a very creepy cover. As well as not knowing any of the actors within, I thought it might end up being a hit and miss.
From HMV you can buy it for £9, and Amazon has it for pretty much the same price. I did think it was a bit expensive for what seemed to be a very average film, but it was relatively new when we watched it so that probably added to it a bit. I'd say it would be suitable for 15 and up, as it pretty much is your average horror thriller style movie.
While the plot on the back of the DVD box seemed a bit predictable, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it wasn't. The plot revolves around 2 sisters, Tricia, a pregnant woman who's husband has been missing for 7 years and Callie,a born again Christian, ex drug user returning to help her sister with her upcoming baby. After Tricia declares her husband dead in absentia, things start to change and not for the best. Throughout the movie, it never stops you guessing, about what is really going on. Is Tricia's husband dead? What's going on with the strange tunnel in the neighbourhood? Is everything just a figment of Callie's imagination from the drugs she begins using?
I preferred the first half of the movie to the second, as it was made in such a way that everything just appeared scary. It's a bit hard to explain without giving the best parts of the plot away, but throughout the first 45 minutes I was kept interested by all the tense moments building up for the two sisters.
For a gore horror fan, this probably isn't the film for you, as there is pretty much no gore or blood at all. Occasionally, there are some creepy bits but it's more of a thriller style that keeps you guessing rather than someone chasing people round a house to kill them.
In my opinion, it was more of a movie that kept you guessing and wondering about what was really happening. The weird changes and additions throughout the movie I liked, as things that seemed normal before, add to the mystery in the film eventually. The acting adds to this tone, as I thought the actors while unknown to me, were realistic and throughout the film, you really got to know each of them and became invested in their stories.
Apparently it had quite a low budget, and while this probably is why there are hardly any gory bits and all that, they did very well. It is shot perfectly combined with a great soundtrack that I thought really added to the movie's tense atmosphere.
Overall, a interestingly complex film with added twists and moments that keep the audience engaged and dreading what will happen next. A great film with perfect acting and directing on a low budget that I haven't seen pulled off as well anywhere else.