Film Review: Absentia
From seemingly out of nowhere comes Mike Flanagan’s Absentia, one of the best horror films released in 2012. Tricia (Courtney Bell) finally declares her missing-for-seven-years husband Daniel dead ‘in absentia’ with the help of her sister Callie (Katie Parker). Tricia tries to move on with her life while pregnant with the baby of Detective Mallory (Dave Levine), while the former addict Callie takes up jogging through an ominous tunnel located near their house. Then, Tricia starts having horrifying visions of Daniel while Callie runs into a strange man (genre favourite Doug Jones) in the tunnel, claiming that “it is sleeping” and he needs her help.
There are numerous qualities to Absentia that make it a rare treat for horror fans. The main plus point in 2012 is that the film is genuinely scary, which very few films have the right to say anymore. The fleetingly used visions are mostly creepy, with one behind-the-door shock working brilliantly well. The tension is high in numerous scenes, leaving the viewer with real chills and nerves.
However, it could easily turn off horror fans, for Absentia is far more than a horror film; it is a drama about how the human mind copes with unexplained loss. Early on in the film, Tricia tells Callie how she made up various scenarios to explain Daniel’s disappearance, and the film as a whole could even be read in this way. Whichever way you take it, Absentia is an emotional experience that has far more depth than a horror made for $70,000 would be expected. Similarly, the acting is all of a professional quality, especially in leading pair Bell and Parker, who handle the script well, and make for extremely likeable characters.
If there’s a major problem with Absentia, it’s that the budget restraints really stop the plot from lifting off like you imagine the writer wishes. This is reflected by the ending, which will certainly be divisive; some will appreciate the fact that the ending emphasis once again that it is the people and the emotion that matters, not the horror, whilst some will be disappointed by the lack of a final showdown or solid conclusion. Even if this is the case, everyone can appreciate some great shocks, chills, twists and, above all, some excellent drama.
By Harry Ford