Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Abandoned

The Abandoned (2006)
Dir. Nacho Cereda
Written by Carlos Fernandez, Julio Fernandez
Starring Anastasia Hille, Karel Roden

    Another in that After Darks “8 Films to Die for” series, THE ABANDONED is a little classier and more psychological than some of its peers, although it still has a guy getting eaten to death by boars. Best of both worlds, amiright?

    The plot concerns Marie Jones (Anastasia Hille), Russian-born expat who returns to her native home when she’s informed that a Russian notary has located her parents and her ancestral abode. It’s pretty obviously evil straight from the get-go, but Marie is a plucky middle-aged blonde so she checks it out, and whaddaya know, she’s barely there for five minutes before she starts seeing creepy doppelgangers of herself. She also meets her creepy long-lost brother (Karl Roden, presumably popping horse tranquilizers like tic-tacs) who also has an evil doppelganger. Together, they wander around the house, have dreamy, bizarre conversations, and generally confirm, yup, it’s haunted all right.

Woah woah woah, we were supposed to be reacting to stuff we see?

    There’s a nice slow style, great location work, and some genuinely eerie ideas and images. But a major stumbling block here is the acting -- I don’t know if the problem is that it’s an English/Spanish co-production of Russian actors shot in Bulgaria and something got lost in the translation or what, but everyone seems weirdly nonplussed by all this. Maybe it’s actually an artistic decision, to give everything a dreamlike or familiar feel (since this one, like THE REEDS and seemingly every small-budget horror production these days, involves a vaguely-defined time travel element) but whatever the reason, it was a bad idea and makes the whole thing kind of uninvolving. Despite the lights turning on and off and the doppelgangers and so forth, this one isn’t surreal enough to be complemented by listless performances (like INFERNO or SILENT HILL are, for example) and most of the time Hille just comes off as prickly and unlikeable. Since we don’t care about the protagonists, it never seems like much is at stake here and eventually the film’s limited bag of tricks gets a little old.

    It has it’s high points, though. The final reveal of what’s actually going on is sort of unique (even if the mechanics of it are not), and the film has some occasionally legitimately unnerving images and ideas. It’s genuinely trying to evoke an atmospheric, unsettling vibe and overall succeeds handily, even mostly having the good manners to avoid the usual haunted house cliches in favor of a hodge-podge of other cliches. It’s polished and even beautiful at times, easily one of the most technically accomplished After Dark films -- it’s just too bad it’s also one of the hardest to get too excited about.

UPDATE 6/18/2013: Wow, I just realized Richard Stanley co-wrote this, whaaaa?


BOOBIES: Don't remember any.
> or = HERSCHELL GORDON LEWIS LEVEL GORE: Some pretty serious boar-related injury.
OBSCURITY LEVEL: Mid-high. Indie pic, but got a small theatrical release.
MONSTERS: Doppelgangers.
ZOMBIES: Doppelgangers? I don't know what counts anymore.
CURSES: Uh...  seems kind of curse-y, but it's not explicit.

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