Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Film Review: Absentia (2011)

Absentia (Review)
United States/2011
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No
A 31 Days of Halloween Special Review!*

"...creating a strong sense of dread and further amplifying the creepiness of the film."

After seven years of waiting, Tricia (Courtney Bell) is finally ready to admit her missing husband will not return. Tricia's sister, Callie (Katie Parker), arrives to comfort her as she officially declares her husband dead in absentia...

Absentia follows Tricia and Callie during this process. When Tricia finally agrees to letting go and signing the forms, she also begins to have horrifying visions of her husband. At the same time, Callie shares similar experiences without knowing; Callie can't really say much on the account of her former drug addiction, and she really doesn't realize what she's experiencing. After seven years, Tricia's husband finally resurfaces, and just as she's about to move on, but so do many questions. Where has he been for the last seven years? Why is he back now? Why is he still intact? The ending of the film doesn't definitively answer every question, instead it proposes many possible solutions -- I liked it.

Regardless of what the DVD cover may represent, Absentia is an atmospheric, slow-burn horror film. In fact, much of the film plays out a bit more like a drama. Fortunately for me, I love drama-horror hybrids. So, you should know the film really focuses on its story and character -- sometimes the focus is unnecessarily strong considering neither element is particularly deep, but it works. The horror consists of the idea of death by absentia, the creepy visuals, the ominous atmosphere, and some unexpected jump-scares. I loved the atmosphere the most, really creating a strong sense of dread and further amplifying the creepiness of the film. I can't stress it enough, though: this is not a traditional supernatural, jump-scare horror film. Adjust your expectations as expectations may be this film's biggest flaw.

The acting is surprisingly good. In fact, I'd say it's great by horror standards. This cast unknowns, especially Courtney Bell and Katie Parker, help Absentia become more realistic, both in performance and appearance. It's refreshing seeing actual people on screen. The music helps set the mood; however, the music is also repetitive and occasionally becomes distracting. The film is shot well, I'm surprised knowing the equipment and budget limitations. Writer and director Mike Flanagan, who also helms this year's Occulus, crafts a great horror-drama hybrid; sometimes the drama overwhelms the horror, and vice versa, but it's a great, atmospheric piece.

Overall, Absentia is a great slow-burn horror film. The story is interesting, the atmosphere is often dreadful, the tension is genuine, and the jump-scares are creative; top that off with two great performances. However, it can move too slow at times, and the movie's strong grip on the story that really isn't that deep causes a lack of balance. Fans of these type of horror films will love this hidden gem.

Score: 7/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood.

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