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A Movie Review for Absentia (2011)

Updated on October 17, 2012
Promotional poster for the 2011 film Absentia
Promotional poster for the 2011 film Absentia | Source

I had heard very little about this movie prior to being able to see it. What I did hear about the film was generally positive and that its actually quite scary. I had added this movie to my Netflix instant stream queue a couple of months ago but hadn't been able to find the time to sit down and actually watch it. If its a scary film than I wanted to be able to watch it properly. I had also heard about the films Kickstarter campaign, and it was great to heard about its success. Now after finally seeing it, I must disagree with the reviews that I heard. While its not a terrible movie, it does suffer from some really bad acting, lack of scares, and a generally weak plot.

The movie follows two sisters, Tricia who is pregnant and Callie, as Tricia deals with having to declare her husband, who has been missing for 7 years, dead in absentia. Callie is there to help see her through the process and also help her out with her pregnancy.Tricia begins to have strange visions of her husband, possibly being from her trouble of letting him go. One day though, out of seemingly nowhere, Daniel, Tricia's husband, shows up turning her world upside down. Callie on the other hand, has become increasingly aware of this tunnel and that something is just not right with it. Strange things begin to happen, and it soon becomes obvious that there is something going on with the walls of that tunnel.

The movie starts off generally well, and we are introduced to the two main characters. They play catch up, also adding in some ok character development. The acting is a little cringe worthy, especially with the unnecessary, forced cursing that plagues Tricia early on. It just comes out so unnatural that you can't help but wonder why. As the story unfolds you are treated to a few really creepy scenes. The best one occurs with Tricia laying down in bed. The door to her bedroom creeks open slightly, building up tension. Her missing husband appears above her bed looking down at her, and plunges his hand into her stomach, then she wakes up. It's a very effective and very creepy scene, too bad there aren't many of them throughout the film.

Screen shot from the 2011 horror film Absentia
Screen shot from the 2011 horror film Absentia | Source

When Daniel turns up after missing for 7 years you know that is something much more sinister going on than just a missing husband, especially when he tells them that he was "underneath". Creepy. When he is finally allowed to come home from the hospital he takes one look at the tunnel and pees himself, cluing you in that the tunnel had something to do with his disappearance. From here on out things go from creepy to downright weird as more, strange and explainable things begin to occur, mostly throughout the eyes of Callie. The sisters must try to unravel what exactly is going on before they become victims themselves.

The movie has a lot of things going for it. On a micro-budget of only $70,000 dollars the movie relies on sounds, darkness and camera work to covey its unsettling, creepy scenes to the audience. There is virtually no blood throughout any part of the film, which is rare for horror films these days but it works better this way. The scares are quiet effective at being scary, although there are very few scenes like this throughout the film. In its 90 or so minute run-time we are only treated to handful of creepy, tension filled moments, and while they are effective there is far to little to become a successful horror film. This movie is a perfect example of what could have been. The plot, although sometimes weak, is great for a horror film like this, offering up the opportunity to be terrifying. If only the filmmaker was able to capitalize on this.

The acting for this film is sub-par. While its not consistently bad, there are some scenes that a cringe worthy and laughable such as the beginning when we meet both of the sisters, and a scene towards the end involving Daniel's parents. Dave Levine who plays Detective Mallory is absolutely terrible in the role. Every line out of his mouth feels forced and unnatural. Again, its a case of what could have been. Slightly better actors, even on the micro budget that they had to work with, could have made a huge difference.

While the movie has some really effective, creepy scenes, and a plot that is generally decent, it suffers from a lack of scares and features some really sub-par acting. On a micro-budget of only $70,000 one has to wonder what could have been done with just a little more money. The potential for a terrifying movie is here, it just needs to be exploited. Keep an eye out for director Mike Flanagan. With the right tools this guy will be able to a craft a very good horror film

6/10

Absentia was released on Blu-ray and DVD on March 13th 2012.

Directed by Mike Flanagan

Starring Katie Parker, Courtney Bell, Dave Levine, Morgan Peter Brown, Justin Gordon, and Doug Jones.

Rated R. Runtime: 91 Minutes

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