Made for the low, low budget of $70,000 in Kickstarter raised funds, Absentia tells the tale of a woman who lost her husband, and is haunted by him, and the sister who returns to help her restart her life, only to reawaken the evil that seized the husband originally.
The plot is interesting, because it does leave a lot of room to believe the two explanations that are offered. That either a beast lives in a local underpass who takes walkers on their way through, or the girls are being stalked by a local man, and the ghosts one of them sees are just in her own mind, and the creature that lurks is a hallucination of the drug addicted sister. It’s clear, however, that the film makers are pushing the supernatural explanation, which weakens the film. More could be done to make each side seem equally convincing, so the ending could be more open ended, which would leave the audience guessing.
The leads are great – it’s nice to see non-skinny women leading a movie, and they have plenty of non-men related topics to discuss. The two cops circling the case are less convincing. The love interest seems to have a fetish for shades, while his partner chews gum in every scene. I imagine without these props they would be more thoroughly convincing. The missing guy is also a problem. He’s a normal looking guy, so he’s not so scary as a ghost (think black eye makeup like a panda bear). You really need someone who could more effectively change; who looks like a regular guy, but whose limbs can flail in unseemly directions. Given that Doug Jones (del Toro’s go to actor for freaks) has a minor role, you kind of feel he should have been bumped up to the main cast. I guess the low budget may have restricted this.
That doesn’t mean the shocks are absent, there’s a few moments where things go “boo” and you jump a little in your seat. Plus the creeping dread of panda guy scraping about and just standing in the corner then in-a-flash assaulting someone is always cool. The final monster is thankfully kept in the shadows; it’s a CGI beast and the less seen the better.
It was never going to be a mainstream success; it doesn’t have the budget for incredible special effects, and neither the actors nor the plot can quite push it beyond niche interest. However, it is awesome that these films get made; they’re creatively interesting because they’re not hamstrung by having to chase the mighty dollar.
Absentia (2011), directed by Mike Flanagan, is released on DVD in the UK, Certificate 15.