Shriekfest 2011 Movie Review: ABSENTIA

Written and Directed By: Mike Flanagan
Cast: Katie Parker, Courtney Bell, Dave Levine, Morgan Peter Brown, Justin Gordon

When I started watching ABSENTIA, I had no idea what to expect. All I had known about the film was that my old friend Dave Levine, whom I spent a good part of a year slinging coffee with at a big corporate coffee chain years ago, was one of the stars of the movie. I had recently viewed the trailer and it indeed intrigued me. I’ll tell you right now, ABSENTIA surprised me and I mean that in a good way.

The film begins with Callie (Katie Parker) moving in with her pregnant sister Tricia (Courtney Bell). We learn very quickly that Tricia’s husband has been missing for roughly seven years and she is struggling with the choice to have him declared dead, or “in absentia”. Soon after the introduction of both characters and their relationship, we find Callie going for a morning jog. As part of her route, she runs right through a dark and ominous looking tunnel (personally, I’d choose a different route!). While running through said tunnel, she discovers a creepy guy named Walter Lambert (Doug Jones). What a cameo! This run-in starts us down the creepy path that is the story of ABSENTIA.

Flanagan’s movie explores how one deals with grief in an uncertain situation. Almost immediately, I was impressed with the production value here. Working on many budget limitations, it’s pretty nice to see a film like this can still actually get made. That, along with the above average writing and the performances of the cast kept my interest throughout.

ABSENTIA is technically a horror film, but seems to cross certain genres in its storytelling and subject matter. Definitely a slow burn, the story really gets moving through its second and third act. By the movie’s end, I found myself sitting there a bit dumbfounded. Sure, there could have been more done with the story and what is actually shown to the viewer (less is definitely more in this film), but maybe that’s the point: to leave the viewer guessing as to what comes next.

Part drama, part horror, and even part creature feature, ABSENTIA is one of the few independent horror films I’ve seen in recent years that I feel is fully worth the viewer’s time. Flanagan delivers a smart and creepy movie full of realistic performances and leaves the viewer wanting more.

Honored by multiple film festivals, you can view the movie yourself this Sunday October 3rd at The 2011 Shriekfest at 8:00 pm. The full schedule for this year’s Shriekfest is available here. For more information about ABSENTIA, click here.

I’m going to just go out on a limb here and predict that after this weekend, ABSENTIA will have another award under its belt. Prove me wrong, Shriekfest! – Aaron P


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