DVD. Second Sight.
are myriad ways in which Absentia could’ve
gone wrong. An indie horror flick that sits neatly within the
mumblecore genre, it’s combination of understated, semi-improvised
dialogue and ambiguity could’ve easily sent it spiralling
down the rabbit hole of pretension and smugness that ultimately
scuppered much-hyped examples like The
Woman and A
Horrible Way to Die. That the film succeeds is a
tribute to writer-director Mike Flanagan’s balancing act
that allows the film to develop rounded, believable characters
while still creating a decidedly weird atmosphere with some startling
moments of horror.
Courtney Bell plays Tricia, a pregnant woman who is about to have
her husband, missing for seven years, declared dead ‘in
absentia’. Arriving to support her is younger sister Callie
(Katie Parker), a not-quite recovering drug addict and Christian,
and before long, strange events start to unsettle both women.
Tricia is haunted by visions of her missing husband, while Callie
is drawn to a tunnel near their home, where desperate, seemingly
homeless people – or lost souls – seem to make appearances.
As Callie discovers that the tunnel has a long history of being
link to disappearances, events become more and more unsettling.
say too much about the story would be to unleash spoilers. This
is very much the sort of film that you need to go into cold. Suffice
to say that there are multiple explanations for events offered,
and while the film implies an unnatural, disturbing answer, it
also offers more prosaic explanations for everything. It’s
fitting for a film that keeps its horrors brief, often barely
seen (or unseen) – there are shock moments, but you often
won’t know exactly what the shock is showing.
Central to the film’s success are the cast – naturalistic,
convincing and far removed from the one-dimensional pretty people
normally found in genre movies, the characters and their relationships
seem entirely genuine. Worth mentioning too is the soundtrack
– a low key, creepy, unsettling score that hints are horror
without hammering the point home.
Absentia is that rare thing – a restrained,
realistic horror film dealing with supernatural fears. Leaving
more questions than it answers, it’s a real gem that deserved
better than a relatively unheralded straight-to-DVD release.
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