Monday, March 12, 2012
Directed by Mike Flanagan
Katie Parker - Callie
Courtney Bell - Tricia
Dave Levine - Det. Mallory
A woman and her sister begin to link a mysterious tunnel to a series of disappearances, including that of her own husband.
I love finding movies and films I've heard about that caught my attention for one reason or another. Most of the films I try to find are the films that usually play at film festivals such as Fantastic Fest, Slamdance or Toronto's After Dark Film Festival. These films for the most part are the movies I will completely go out of my way to find to watch and review. Yes, I do like the big summer blockbuster movies, yet most of the time those films are missing something. While the smaller release films and movies usually pack a greater punch due to the actual filmmakers have direct control over the final product most of the time. Whether that punch be emotional or visceral, these films just have a punch that is missing from more mainstream films, which is what is wrong with most mainstream films. I've noticed that a lot of the more smaller independent films I've watched recently just outclass most other films. That's not to say that they are all gems, in fact it's quite the opposite as in the indy film realm you have a lot more dreck than normal cause any person with a camera thinks they can make a film now. Yet it's finding those small gems that leave you either exhilarated or emotional drained make it worth wading through all of it worthwhile.
The two main actresses in the film carry the whole movie. Courtney Bell who plays the older sister Tricia is just wonderful. Bell has the more emotional of the roles due to the fact that her character is finally coming to terms with her husband has been missing for seven years and she has finally decided to declare him dead by absentia. The emotional toll is impacted even more by the fact that she's pregnant and she's seeing her missing husband as a ghostly apparition coming to haunt her for her choices. Katie Parker, who portrays Callie, does just as well as Bell. Parker's character is a little harder to get into at first but later on gives more warmth as she is more open of a character. Parker and Bell play very well off of each other after a awkward reunion at the start of the movie. Dave Levine who plays Detective Mallory isn't bad in his role either. Even though his character seems pretty common, it's when the movie starts reaching it's climax is when Mallory starts showing his true emotions. Also look for a cameo by Doug Bradley who always does decent in any role he is giving.
I have to talk about the story now as well as say that there with be a story spoiler here. So if you don't want anything ruined for you now would be the time to skip to the last paragraph.. Though the film starts out a little bit slow, it's necessary for the story as you get to know the two sisters who meet back up for the first time in years. You can tell there is some awkwardness between them as I mentioned before as Callie who is a recovering drug addict yet her sister Tricia sees past that. I mentioning this as even though both sisters have problems, they act like sisters around each other. Even though the first third of the film is somewhat slow moving it's done intentionally to allow the bond of the sisters to set in and show that each one has problems. While Callie is battling addiction, her sister Tricia is battling something much more internal and destructive. The story does pick up and once it does there's a certain creepiness to it. I put it that way due as I watching the film that creepy factor just slowly pervaded into the story without me noticing. I loved how this feeling worked it's way into the overall story as toward the end of the movie it comes to the fore-front at what is actually happening. I'm going to go ahead and say that what I thought was going on and what was happening I was completely wrong about. The story took a very nice turn into the Mythos territory and it just opened the whole film up to something completely different and made the story become larger and more expansive.
Director Mike Flanagan has created a movie out of a mash up of genres and it works wonderfully all together. Part of this is due to the story, the other part is due to how Flanagan directed the film. The camera work is steady for the most part and when something is happening on screen there is not ten different angles quickly put together in the Mtv style of directing. Instead the camera focuses on the characters reaction to what is transpiring around them and the true horror is just always out of focus either in the foreground or the background. This works amazingly at the end as the mind takes over and tries to fill in the gaps of what is really there. Yet the one scene this works best in is at the end of the film when Callie is asking for a trade. The trade is agreed upon but not in the way she wanted or who she wanted. I'm not going to give the whole thing away but what happens is a gut punch that I didn't see coming. Even before this the film took on a life of its own, but this scene made the movie into something else. Something more monstrous, and much more horrific. For a movie that was made for not even a fraction of what movies are made for in Hollywood, it does what most of those never come close to being, having a story that doesn't take its audience for granted as well as being suspenseful and scary, and a amazing film in general.
The return of a slightly rearranged missing family member.
Courtney Bell, who plays Tricia, was five months pregnant during the production of the film.
Mike Flanagan wrote the first draft of the screenplay in just two sittings.
Absentia was funded with help by over 300 donors on Kickstarter.