Absentia

absentia-3A 2011 Horror film written and directed by Mike Flanagan, Absentia as funded in part by the crowed source site Kickstarter. Absentia raised 25k of its 70k budget account for more than a third of the film’s total budget. The film stars Courtney Bell, who was actually seven months pregnant at the time of filming. Another interesting tidbit is that one of the filming locations (one of the empty apartments) was a former residence of the film’s director.

Absentia follows seven month pregnant Tracie (Courtney Bell) as she files for her husband Daniel’s (Morgan Peter Brown) death in absentia certificate after missing for the past seven years. She is visited by her younger sister Callie (Katie Parker), who has come to visit and help her sister move into a new apartment. While out jogging Callie passes through a tunnel and finds a weak malnourished man she assumes to be homeless, who seems to be surprised at her ability to see him. She returns later with food for the man, but he’s no longer there and she leaves the food at the entrance to the tunnel. Callie later finds a collection of metal objects on her sister’s doorstep, she returns them to the tunnel and is warned by a neighbor not to do that as he deposits a small black trash bag. Callie later finds the pile again, this time in her bed and calls Detective Mallory (Dave Levine) who is assigned to Daniel’s disappearance as well as being the father to Tracie’s unborn baby. He scolds the pair of leaving the house unlocked and alludes to the neighbor having a bad reputation among the police. The next evening while Mallory takes Tracie on their first official date they find Daniel malnourished, incoherent and rush him to the hospital where he is treated and questioned about his whereabouts. To which he reply’s “underneath”. At home Daniel opens up to Callie after she gets high, while looking at a copy of the three billy goats gruff stating “that’s not how they look. They look like insects with skin like silverfish.” He mentions that Callie shouldn’t have traded as the creature fixates and hides in the walls. He is then taken by in front Callie, but the police and her sister Tracie don’t believe her due to her history of drug abuse. Later the body of a man Callie first met is found at the entrance of the tunnel bent and broken. The man who warned her not trade comes on the site and freaks out at the sight of his missing fathers body. He again has a black trash bag and when the police inspect it, the police find a small dog. Taken in for questioning, Tracie and Callie return home where the creature is waiting for them.

I did enjoy this film, but if felt very unpolished, something I normally enjoy. Unfortunately this has to do with flubbed or dropped lines over crude film techniques. While it does give the film a sense of real conversation at times, it was often just distracting. Much of the dialogue was lacking in my opinion, the core sense of what they were  going for is strong but it feels like they to awkward ways to reach the end destination. Making me wonder if the director gave the actors a scene and had them work it out themselves.

The acting from both Parker and Bell start strong and start to fall apart as the film progresses. The two work best playing at being sisters, but when they start to argue and are put at odds everything feels forced. Levine works the opposite with his acting starting shaky and ending very strong. Brown delivers the best performance in the film with my favorite scene the one where he speaks to Callie about the monsters that abducted him. He’s able to convey quite a bit in very little screen time.

The atmosphere while good, keeping a constant tone through-out the film. Many of the shots of the tunnel coming across very foreboding.  It’s a slow build that sadly has a somewhat weak pay off. This ties into my main issue and that’s the creature. I enjoyed how little screen time it got and when it was on-screen it was for short burst moving the shadows. My issue is the creatures apparent lack of motivation. While I can accept that it’s motives could be completely alien I still would have liked to have seen it at least addressed.

Final thoughts, I liked it. Overall it’s a good low-budget monster flick. Sure it’s got some small plot holes and strangeness. But that’s all part of the low-budget package. The acting is overall very solid and while I wasn’t often frightened, I was invested. Also the film was entertaining enough to keep me away from my phone never letting me get bored enough to lose interest. So for the low-budget flick with admirable aspirations I give it a passing 6/10.

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