Directed by Mike Flanagan
‘Absentia’ is the story of Tricia Riley (Courtney Bell) who is coping with the disappearance of her husband, Daniel Riley (Morgan Peter Brown). The man has been missing for seven years now and has legally been deemed dead in absentia.
As Tricia struggles to come to terms with the fact that Daniel is actually gone and she is losing the last threads of hope she has of ever finding him, she is also very much pregnant. Enter her younger sister Callie (Katie Parker), a recovering drug addict who has arrived at Tricia’s home to help her pack up and move out, and one can’t help but feel sympathy for the leading lady.
Director Mike Flanagan (whose credits include director of photography for ‘Chainsaw Sally’ and working on a number of television programs) does a fantastic job of not only weaving a gripping story of heartbreak, loss and frustration but also using his visual skills to show the film in a fantastic way. ‘Absentia’ has a very real feel to it- not every shot is crisp, but that plays as one of the film’s strengths.
When Callie notices the foreboding tunnel near the home and starts jogging through it, the supernatural aspect of this film really kicks in to high gear. Veteran actor Doug Jones (Mystery Men, Hellboy, Hellboy II) shows up in a creepy cameo that kicks off the paranormal fun. Mysterious disappearances from years past start to get connected and all signs point to the tunnel.
Dave Levine plays Detective Ryan Mallory, who has been working on the cold case of Daniel’s disappearance and also adding another emotional level to Tricia’s life.
The acting is solid throughout the film. There are a few instances where the dialogue comes off a tad unconvincing, but maybe it’s just me- I prefer films not to have crisp, perfectly formed dialogue at every turn. How often do we really say what we mean or want to say? This adds to the real feel of the movie, in my opinion.
The tagline to ‘Absentia’, “There Are Fates Worse Than Death”, is perfect. We learn that death would be a peaceful alternative to the Hell that the dreaded tunnel is holding in.
Made on a reported budget of $70,000, ‘Absentia’ works on a number of levels. It’s often difficult for an independent film to really ramp up the creepy factor, considering CGI is (thankfully) usually very rarely used. But Flanagan brings the viewer a film that we can emotionally draw ourselves into with a solid story while also playing on some of our most eerie phobias- closed shower curtains, dark rooms at the bottom of a stairway, weird noises in the night.
When CGI is used, it is used just enough to get the point across and it achieves exactly what it should- a quick burst of nervous tension that leaves you watching with unblinking eyes.
‘Absentia’ is a fun, creepy film that deserves the accolades it’s received. I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a fun haunting with intriguing story-telling. If you’re expecting blood, guts and sex, you’re gonna wanna look elsewhere.