Absentia (2011) Directed by Mike Flanagan. Starring Courtney Bell, Katie Parker, Dave Levine, Justin Gordon, Morgan Peter Brown, Doug Jones, Scott Graham.

I had not heard of Absentia until it was recommended to me by my close friend (we’ll call him Mikael). I had no other expectations, other than his recommendation, which is good enough for me. It stars actors I’d never heard of and is directed by someone I’d never heard of…  but it must be good. I mean look at all of those laurel leaves on the poster! Well, yes, it really is very, very good.

Tricia (Courtney Bell) is ending a long, dreary chapter in her life. Her husband Daniel (Morgan Peter Brown) has been missing for seven years, enough time to allow her to declare him dead “in absentia”, a process she is putting the final, complicated touches on. Her sister Callie (Katie Parker), has recently been released from rehab and is coming to live with Tricia. As they could both use the emotional support during this trying time in their lives, it seems like a good idea. But Tricia is now seeing strange things at night and Callie is having her own mysterious encounters, all of which may reveal what actually happened to poor Daniel.

I now have a new appreciation for Kickstarter, the funding website that seems to be all the rage these days. Absentia was partially funded by contributors to the site and, bless ’em, they helped to create one of the best independent horror movies I’ve seen in a long time. I usually expect such low budget flicks to be full of wooden acting and clunky dialogue. Not so with this movie. The acting is great, the dialogue feels natural, and the smart plot contains scary, unpredictable twists. It starts out like a haunted house film but takes a completely unique direction. That’s about all I’ll say of the plot; you should experience the twists and turns yourself.

Right from the beginning I was relieved to see talented actors. I particularly enjoyed the interactions between the two leads. The actresses have to carry a lot of the emotional weight in their scenes together and they pull it off fantastically, along with a lot of the usual reacting to scary things-type acting you expect to find in a horror film.

The visual effects are minimal, which works to Absentia‘s advantage. It doesn’t really need them. Cinematography and sound effects accomplish most of what is required for Absentia‘s most chilling aspects.

One of the creepier settings in the film is a tunnel that factors into the story. A footpath passes through a hill via a long concrete tunnel that I wouldn’t want to walk through even in the daylight. It’s a great location. I can imagine the screenwriter finding it and writing the entire movie around it. I love how it incorporates into the story.

It’s refreshing to see such a satisfying and unique horror film. The more I think about Absentia the more I like it, but the less said about it, the better. This one is for fans of “slow burn” horror. You can find it currently streaming on Netflix, so if you have an account I highly recommend it for your Halloween viewing.

The ‘Pledge Pitch’ videos linked on the film’s Kickstarter page are pretty funny. Check ’em out!


One Response to “‘Absentia’”

  1. Michael K Vaughan Says:

    This is a very good review of this great movie. I have sat through hundreds of horror movies (once I start them I feel a strange compulsion to finish them, no matter how bad they might be) and lets face it…most of them tend to suck. But every once in a while I start to watch one and realize I’m seeing something special. That’s how it was with this. Pure horror gold, this.
    Glad you pointed out how good the acting was. A solid job from every actor in this one.

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