Thursday, July 7, 2011
A film is here to save me from the recent string of mediocrity that I've bared witnessed to and it is called Absentia. Atmospheric, captivating, terrifying and full of suspense, it's one of the most original stories to play out on the small screen that I've had the privilege of viewing this year.
Tricia is a wife soon to be formally removed of such a status. You see, her husband has been missing for 7 years. No clues as to where he is. No goodbye note, message or text. No body found as a victim of some cruel crime. We're introduced to her at the beginning of our story, a woman still clinging to (maybe) a sliver of hope as she tacks up the last batch of missing signs to telephone poles and bulletin boards. But it soon becomes obvious that she submitted to the grieving process long before. And filling out a formal 'in absentia' court document is the last remaining seal on the proverbial coffin.
Coming to live with her is her younger sister Callie, a drifter who's recovering from a drug addiction. Callie is there to help seal the deal, getting her to move on with her life and out of the place where she and her husband called home. With the mention of the court document on it's way and insurance payments which will subsequently come, her husband (named Daniel) starts appearing in the house, a ghostly white figure with hollowed out eyes. It's almost as if Daniel doesn't want this last bit of formality to occur to make things 'official.' In addition to showing up in the house, he appears as Tricia is signing the now arrived document at her lawyer's office, Daniel standing over her shoulder in obvious anger and disapproval. What plays to such great effect in these scenes are that there are no jolts which are accompanied by a discordant soundtrack. They're genuine scares designed to rattle your cage without a moment of anticipation.
So now that the deal is done, Tricia looks forward to moving on with her life. But things take a turn for the bizarre when Callie goes out jogging one day, through a stretch of tunnel that runs under a highway and connects to a city park. On her return back through, she comes upon a man first believed to be homeless and in need of food. The man strangely asks for a 'trade' and she takes it as nothing more than going home and bringing back some leftovers from dinner that night. She does so, and sets the food near the start of the tunnel when she does not see the man in the same position where she left him. Another man with a garbage bag sets down his own offering and gives the woman a vague warning before running off.
If that wasn't strange enough, Tricia agrees to a date with the lead detective that was working her husband's case. As they head out for the night, they run into Daniel, in the street, pale, bloodied and only wearing underwear. They rush him to the hospital and find him severely malnourished with some strange artifacts lodged in his stomach. Thinking her husband had finally come home for good, she dials family to tell them of the news. When she gets him home, she finds that he's been trapped in another world and the thing which kept him there is not about to let him go.
I won't delve too much more into the story but the reveal of what it is that kept him confined to the tunnel space (along with many other victims) is done really well as a lot is left to the imagination. Sure we see bits and flashes of the creature but the explanation from Daniel of what 'it' looks like, is enough to send your imagination running wild. Which is another element that plays to such great effect. For to have a CGI'd to hell monster or something that is rubbery in the vein of Roger Corman, would have rendered things (and all the great suspense built to this point) all for naught and just plain silly. But do you know what's even more of a mind screw than all of that? By film's end, the sister has resorted to drugs to help her cope and the severly fragile state of Tricia, which very well could have warped her perception of reality, leaves you wondering, 'Was there an actual monster all along?'
See this film. This is the antidote for all things boring, dull, remade, rehashed and unoriginal. Add another to my year end 'best of' list.
For more information about Absentia, check out the film's website: http://www.absentiamovie.com/
Cortez the Killer