In today’s world just about anything can happen, whether you are walking down the street or sitting in your living room. For Tricia, her husband’s mysterious disappearance was only the beginning and when he returns 7 years later without explanation, she and her sister, Callie, try to make sense of the strange incidents around them. The horror, Absentia, took an interesting idea and created a real atmosphere; however, the lack of development on the monster and the actual events occurring within the film made it feel too quick and left me with many questions.
The 2011 horror, Absentia, directed and written by Mike Flanagan, opens with Tricia (Courtney Bell) as she comes to grip her husband’s disapperance and finally declare him legally dead. Her sister, Callie (Katie Parker), comes to stay with her and help her through the difficult time only to find things becoming a lot stranger than expected.
Tricia suffers from severe guilt as she comes closer to declaring her husband’s death and she still places up ‘missing posters’, despite her lack of hope of ever finding him. She often has disturbing visions and dreams about her lost husband and questions whether she is doing the right thing. Once she finally decides to move on with her life, it all comes crashing down around her when her husband appears at her doorstep.
Following her husband’s mysterious reappearance, both Tricia and her sister, along with Tricia’s detective boyfriend, try to figure out where he has been during the 7 years, doubting that he was actually in danger the entire time. However, Callie, whom suffers from a drug-filled past, is more accepting of the damaged man as she tries understanding what happened.
Callie is much more open-minded than her reserved sister and she begins piecing things together, coming to the conclusion that a dark tunnel nearby their home is more dangerous than it seems. After her brother-in-law is taken from an invisible force right in front of her, she begins exploring mythology and previous disappearances, determined to prove to her sister that she isn’t crazy.
The film used an interesting idea for the danger lurking nearby and played on the old fairytale of the Troll living under the bridge, as well as other popular tales and legends. There were cool elements used in the film, like when a victim was stuck inside the walls and their hand prints could be seen through the pavement, which reminded me of the bedroom scene in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984).
Bell and Parker were believeable as Tricia and Callie and their pairing made the film seem a lot more real. The whole dark and damp atmosphere that the director created felt like it was a reality; I felt as though I were watching real people through a found footage video, despite the supernatural elements to the story. The acting wasn’t entirely perfect but there were a lot of moments where the film didn’t seem rehearsed and the director was able to make us care for the duo, for the most part.
My problem with Absentia is that it didn’t have enough depth to its story and characters. Right when things were beginning to flesh out and get going, the film seems to end and leave you hanging. In some cases, an abrupt ending is okay because for the most part, the audience is given a lot of information throughout the film; however, Absentia is a slow build that fails to have a climax.
I would have loved to have seen Callie explore the history of the tunnel and the mysterious disappearances more fully, giving the audience more to latch on to rather than the brief story we were given to nibble on. Also, the director tried creating a film that walks a line between fiction and reality for the characters–were the events that were ocurring even real or were they a part of Callie’s drug hallucinations? The concept would have been interesting if he used this idea more but he just briefly grazed it, making the idea seem like an afterthought to throw the audience off.
There is a lot of symbolism throughout the movie as well, focusing on each character’s dark tendencies and past. The monster lurking in the nearby tunnel also represents the monster lurking within each of them, which was an intriguing element to the film. It was a great concept but it wasn’t executed very well. It seemed as though the director was just sloppily throwing stories together, trying too hard to make a film with a hidden message.
The film made the rounds at various horror festivals upon its release and it won several awards; obviously, some people enjoyed it. Although I wasn’t completely turned off by the movie, I did find myself bored throughout as I waited for things to actually happen. It seemed like a short film despite its full-length and the story was not as fleshed out as I would have liked it to have been.
Absentia used an interesting concept and the director was able to create likeable and realistic characters in a realistic world, despite the supernatural elements added on top. Although it wasn’t the worst film I’ve seen, I didn’t enjoy the brief speed in which things happened without giving us any explanation or insight. The film had a good start but ended with a thud, making it unworthy of repeated viewing. I would skip Absentia because there isn’t much new brought to the genre; not much was explained, the story and characters weren’t as deep as I preferred, and for horror fans viewing solely on blood and gore–you won’t even get that.