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Absentia (2011)

A woman and her sister begin to link a mysterious tunnel to a series of disappearances, including that of her own husband.

I saw the dvd cover for Absentia and noticed it was full of awards and high score ratings so I thought I would take a gamble on a film I had heard nothing about. I didn’t even know what absentia meant (now I do – Latin for “in the absence”). Most of the time a film that just appears at a cut price brand-new doesn’t bode well for my viewing pleasure, irrespective of the ‘awards’ scattered all over the cover. I’m pleased to say I was very surprised with what I saw and glad I took the gamble with this purchase.

Absentia is an award-winning 2011 horror film written and directed by Mike Flanagan. It follows two sisters who begin to link a series of mysterious disappearances to an ominous tunnel near their house. Tricia (Courtney Bell), is pregnant. Her husband went missing seven years ago, and her sister Callie (Katie Parker) is recovering from a drug addiction and whose grip on reality is questionable. They reunite as Tricia is about to sign the official papers declaring her husband dead in absentia. Tricia’s guilt at signing her husband’s death certificate is very apparent to the viewer, and that is complicated as she is having a relationship with the Detective who investigated the disappearance.

Despite continuously putting up posters about her missing husband, no information about his disappearance was ever uncovered. The main problem is Tricia keeps seeing visions of him, which actually works well for random scares.

When out on one of her runs, Callie finds herself drawn to an ominous tunnel near the house that might also be connected to other neighborhood disappearances. Soon it becomes clear that the ancient force at work in the tunnel might have set its sights on Callie and Tricia … and that Daniel might be suffering a fate far worse than death in its grasp.

The film definitely made me think throughout its runtime. It was tricky to work out what was real and what wasn’t. For example, Callie had some theories about the local disappearances but it made me wonder if they were just the product of her drug withdrawal, or she was actually seeing the things she thought she was. Credit goes to the filmmakers for taking this approach, rather than spell it out for the audience it definitely leaves things open for you to make your own choices. This is only a small issue, but by doing this the ending becomes slightly less powerful as there is no real clarification and maybe there was a change in the ‘rules’………I can’t really go into details as I really don’t want to spoil it if anyone does manage to catch this.

It was great to see that the film’s principal photography phase was funded by way of a project page on crowd funding website Kickstarter. It just goes to show people can make a difference and by supporting this project, those people helped a very good movie get made.

When films are shot and made on a low-budget, the majority of times you can tell but with Absentia it really looked a quality movie. No special effects, cgi or any fancy tricks, just simple storytelling (for the most part) and some effective scares. No gore or violence as such, but a few creepy moments and it definitely asks viewers a lot of questions and tries to lead you in different directions. I feel it just needed a definitive resolution, as whilst being open-ended and ambiguous worked for the most part it would have been nice to get a clearer understand of the forces at work and the rules of the ‘tunnel’.

The acting by the sisters was great, very believable and it never felt forced, though the police guys got a bit more screen time than I felt was necessary without really answering any questions. All in all I felt Absentia was a good film, and the best thing about it was that it was different and tried something a little more unique than the horror that has been churned out recently. I definitely came away from it still trying to piece bits of it together, and whilst I have a solid theory on most of it little things just need some clarification. Lots of different theories seem to be floating around the internet so at least I’m not the only one who didn’t fully understand the ending. Although I feel we weren’t meant to totally grasp the mythology of it, I guess that’s part of its appeal. After all, if you are still wondering and contemplating aspects of a film after you finish watching it then they have done their job and got in your head. If you ever get chance to see it, you could do a lot worse than watch Absentia.

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20 Comments

  1. Nice! I’m adding this to my list! 🙂

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    • Yeah I was pleasantly surprised with it. Although I’m full of cold and tired so hope I didn’t miss too much out and my review does it justice. 🙂 As always, let me know what you think if you ever see it

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  2. Yea, I picked this up for cheap after hearing about from people on Twitter. I loved it. I think I’ll benefit from rewatches when it comes to the questions you talked about. Can’t wait for that. It’s nice to have a horror flick that actually encourages multiple viewings. Not a lot of them do that anymore.

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    • Agree totally, Im planning to watch this again very soon. Hopefully I can get a better understanding of the ‘trade rules’ as thats the bit that I found the most plot-holey if that even makes sense.

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  3. Horror is my favorite genre of movies and this one seems decent. Thank you for the review, I’ll check it out! 🙂

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  4. Sean Gatcomb

     /  July 13, 2012

    I did not know you just reviewed this on. I had the same feeling that the movie leaves you questioning what is true or if the people are just crazy.

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  5. theipc

     /  July 13, 2012

    wow – the only cover I’ve ever seen for this is the one at the top of your page and that actually made me NOT want to see it. Your review changes the game though so – I’m in! Thanks!

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    • Yeah the cover initially put me off, but really the film shows very little like that. Glad my review has at least peaked your curiosity, let me know if you do see it. Cheers for the comment 🙂

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  6. I like that cover! That doesn’t put me off in any way. In fact, it makes me want to see the movie as it promises intense horror. Unfortunately, most B-movies have covers/posters writing checks that the movie can’t cash. This seems to be the case based on your reply to one of the people above. But your review makes me want to watch this movie, so thanks for the heads up on this flick. I’ll catch it when I can. It’s the weekend, dude. Drink up : )

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    • Hmmmmm, the cover is tricky as it looks like intense horror as you say, and there are parts near the end where scenes similar to this happen, but I thought the film was better than the cover portrayed, which sounds stupid as I write this but makes sense in my head 🙂 Its not a lie, that kind of scene happens, but it is more in-depth and psychological than just a straight up evil things grabbing people horror. Haha, damn, at least my review makes you want to watch it, that’s the main reason I do this writing thing, so thanks very much for the comment and if you do see it let me know if anything I said makes sense! Enjoy your weekend bud 🙂

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  7. Placed my order for this one. It’s not easy to find decent horrors any more.

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  8. This is a great movie. Everyone complaining about the state of horror today needs to seek this one out, to see that quality movies are still being made by indie filmmakers.

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    • I agree, heard nothing about this film until I saw the DVD for sale. Shame when crap such as Devil Inside gets huge release and promotion and Absentia gets nothing yet is far superior. Looking forward to seeing what director does next

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  9. Nice review Tyson. You know why I am here hahaha.

    Yeah, I liked it more than you, though your review captures what it is. I thought for a simple film it came together extremely well.

    Liked by 1 person

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    • Haha, thanks for stopping by. Yeah you definitely liked it more than me. Definitely better out there though. You need to work through my a-z and check out all my reviews. That’ll boost my stats nicely 😉

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