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Tuesday, 8 July 2014

DVD Of The Week: Absentia (2011)


Your enjoyment of Absentia will probably depend of your reaction to stories that end with the line "And then he stepped through the door" (or some variation of that theme).

Wisely acknowledging its budgetary short-comings, Absentia is all about the build-up, the suggestion of something horrific going on just outside the viewer's field of vision.

This isn't a stomach-challenging gorefest, but rather an understated slow-burner, taking its atmospheric cues from Lovecraft, Clive Barker and William S Burroughs.

In a suburb of Los Angeles, heavily-pregnant Tricia (Courtney Bell) is preparing to have her missing husband Daniel (Morgan Peter Brown) declared dead "in absentia", so she can move on with her life - possibly with her new boyfriend, one of the policemen on her husband's case, Detective Ryan Mallory (Dave Levine).

Her flighty, younger sister Callie (Katie Parker) - who claims to have replaced her narcotic addiction with religion - has turned up to help her sort her life out, but Tricia is still haunted by visions of her husband while Callie is inexplicably drawn towards a nearby creepy underpass that has a history of associations with numerous disappearances over the years.

Just when it looks as though Tricia has been able to put Daniel's disappearance behind her, things take an unexpected twist.

Writer/director Mike Flanagan (who also wrote and directed the upcoming Karen Gillan-starring Oculus) teases out the character-led psychological horror of Absentia at a measured pace, occasionally slipping in fleeting glimpses of insectoid beasties to keep our attention riveted on the screen.

In an interesting variation on the traditional "unreliable narrator" trope, the script gives us brief vignettes on alternate explanations for key moments in the story as characters question the reality of what they have seen or been told. Are there otherworldly forces at work or, as the rational police officers believe, is this just the hallucinations of a traumatised junkie?

Don't expect to be spoon-fed answers in Absentia or to be exposed to mind-blowing CGI representations of the other worlds hinted at in deranged ramblings.

Almost like an 87-minute compression of True Detective, this is a film about tormented characters wrapped up in an oppressive and confusing situation, finding their lives intersecting with an urban myth that may actually have some basis in truth or may be society finding patterns in random actions.

While low on shocks and jump scares, the unnerving atmosphere of Absentia will worm its way into your brain and stay with you far longer than the latest action-packed slice of torture porn.

2 comments:

  1. Excellent recommendation! And OCCULUS was amazing as well...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Al. Really looking forward to Oculus - a horror film starring Amy Pond and Starbuck! What's not to like?

      Delete

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