Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Film review: Absentia
I find that horror fans are a much more diverse group of people than those not actively involved in the scene might otherwise guess. It says something about the wide range of sub-genres within horror that there is such a variety of tastes, preferences, expectations, and experience. But a big part of that is our own individual fears. I, for example, don't find clowns scary. I am 0% scared by clowns. I've seen IT, I've watched all sorts of horror with clowns in them, they remain fun and silly even at their most evil. But clown fear is very common, I've known people who have it. I, on the other hand, am terrified of spiders. One of the scariest movies I've ever seen is ARACHNOPHOBIA. I feel a chill run up my spine just thinking about it.
I say this before I delve into ABSENTIA because I was surprised that an award-winning film that was this good hadn't been rated higher on sites like IMDB.com or Rotten Tomatoes.
I concede that it isn't 100% pure horror, it's part mystery, part thriller, part drama. But I think most horror movies could benefit from at least a dash of each of those genres. There are enough other people out there that enjoyed it as much as I did, but I was taken off guard by some of the criticism. I'm chalking it up to their tastes, expectations and requirements of a horror movie being different from mine. I like subtle movies, they can be much more effective at creeping me out than all the jump scares in the world. And I've seen so many horror movies that lost points on character that I really appreciate when I'm given such a palpable connection to the people on my screen.
ABSENTIA isn't a big money movie, it was made on a low budget that was partially funded through a successful Kickstarter, making about 150% of the money requested. But they made the most with that money. The film looks great, the directing and photography were wonderful. The actors do an amazing job with their characters, which says just as much about the quality of the writing as it does about the talent of the actors who made the characters come to life.
It's a slow paced film, which is one of the things that seems to irk some viewers. We're introduced to a very pregnant Tricia, whose husband has been missing for seven years. She's about to officially declare him dead, and her sister Callie shows up to help her through that process. Callie was a drug addict who had run away years before, but is supposedly now clean and ready to be there for her sister.
Tricia is going through a lot, to put it mildly. She feels conflicted about declaring her husband, Daniel, dead, guilty over her relationship with Ryan, the detective assigned to her case, and hesitant to move on. She begins experiencing horrible visions of her dead husband which may or may not be products of her imagination. When the movie's twist finally pops in mid-way through, Callie starts to think that maybe there's something much more terrifying behind Daniel's disappearance, something linked to an eerie tunnel nearby her sister's apartment. Too bad no one trusts a drug addict, right?
If you're looking for a horror movie that hooks you in an emotional way, ABSENTIA is a great choice. It has a lot to say about grief, loss, guilt, trust, and the struggle to leave the past behind us and move on. The scares are not jolts, they're the things we think we see in the corner of our eye. The nightmares that fizzle out once we open our eyes again. Things that make you doubt yourself, not knowing whether you're losing your mind or genuinely being stalked by something abnormal, not of the world as we know it.
Absentia via Netflix.com
Absentia via IMDB.com
Absentia via Rotten Tomatoes