Apr 4, 2012


Absentia is a cool little movie. The story is unique, the acting is genuine, but the best part? Abundant creep. The budget was obviously small, but for such a contained story, a large one would only have been a hindrance. I love movies like this—movies that come out of nowhere and land with a soft thud on video, usually courtesy of a home video label whose other acquisitions are tepid at best. It’s a selfish thought on my part that movies like these usually suffer such horrid company, but for people like me, it only serves as a welcome surprise. (The reason I mention this: a preview for a film called Forget Me Not was in front of Asbentia, and one I eventually sought. For a film which probably had three times the budget as Absentia, it was laughably bad—a hodgepodge of all the “cool shit” from better horror films haphazardly mixed together in a silly mindless mess. It was a perfect example of movies that belong in the realm of direct-to-video. Absentia does not.)

Callie (Katie Parker), during what sounds like a cross-country tour, stops in on her sister, Tricia (Courtney Bell). Tricia is very far along in her pregnancy, but who the father is remains a secret from both the audience and Callie as well. Several years ago, Tricia’s husband Daniel mysteriously disappeared one day. No sign of him had ever been found, nor had he ever reached out to contact his wife. Tricia has now decided to declare Daniel “dead in absentia,” and Callie has stopped in to help her sister with the process. Tricia seems genuinely okay with it until she begins making preparations to move out of the home she once shared with Daniel. Then she starts spotting him—his face pure white and his eyes and mouth dark, black holes. And not just in her nightmares, but in her waking life where he does not belong—in the darkness of her living room, or crouched in a coat closet.

Callie, meanwhile has experienced odd occurrences on her own, mainly during her daily jogs through the city…and through the creepy tunnel directly across the street from Tricia’s home. There she finds a derelict man (genre regular Doug Jones), his body bent and twisted, his clothes bloody and torn. Callie, meaning well, leaves some food for who she assumes to be a homeless man. With what she thought was only an act of kindness, she has no idea what she has set in motion.

All during this, Detective Mallory (Dave Levine), who has been investigating a rash of missing people (including Daniel), seems to have a closer relationship with Tricia than your usual detective and civilian do. His love for Trivia and his job as a cop causes his alpha male tendencies to kick in once shit really hits the fan…especially after it’s discovered that Callie’s past drug habits aren’t so past as she says. And her claims of things skittering around the floors and in the walls sound like nothing more than the ravings of a needle user.

Absentia’s plot is very unique—one whose effectiveness will be determined by the audience’s willingness to think outside the box. There is no clear-cut villain in the film, and most of the questions you will have will not be answered. Despite this, the movie is deeply satisfying—in fact it’s one of the most satisfying I can recall whose own motivations are barely explained.

Each and every sighting of Daniel’s apparition is effectively eerie, and director Mike Flanagan definitely understands the “less is more” technique. No previous knowledge of the movie’s plot will have the viewer trying to guess just where the hell the movie’s story is going. What seems like your basic ghost/haunting movie devolves into something far more unique and unusual.

As previously mentioned, the acting is genuine, and even better, the actors look like real, believable people. 

The direction is quite assured. I would personally love to see what Flanagan can do with a high concept/high budget genre film.

But what is the movie really about? Addiction? Mourning? Resigning yourself to a life you hadn’t planned for? Trying to overcome the notion that instead of embracing this new life, you’re trying to make do with it?

Check out Absentia and find out for yourself. 

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