Today: February 26, 2024

Absentia

Absentia is one of the best horror films of the year. It may even be one of the best films of the year.

Absentia is one of
the best horror films of the year. It may even be one of the
best films of the
year.
But you’re
probably not going to watch it. And nobody is really going to write
about it. A few horror nuts. Maybe. But nobody
big. Nobody mainstream. Absentia’s going to slip past most of you, unnoticed and
unloved. It has no stars, no budget, no huge set-piece action
scenes, no CGI robots, no gory violence, no crowd-pleasing deaths, no
found-footage gimmick, no hip genre deconstruction. But give it a
chance and it’s going to climb inside your head and haunt your dreams.

Seven
years after her husband Daniel (Morgan
Peter Brown
) disappeared without trace, Tricia Riley (Courtney Bell) is finally ready to move on with her
life. Heavily pregnant by the police liaison officer who
investigated Daniel’s disappearance, Tricia has begun legal action to have Daniel
legally declared dead ‘in absentia’ and her estranged, ex-drug addict sister
Callie (Katie Parker) has found God,
got herself clean and sober, and has moved in to support Tricia and help out
once the baby arrives.

But
visions of an angry, emaciated Daniel haunt Tricia’s dreams, bleeding into her
reality. She catches fleeting glimpses of him out of the corner of
her eye, experiences violent, terrifying visitations. Callie
meanwhile is drawn to an ominous tunnel near their home where she has a strange
encounter with the badly beaten and hysterical Walter (Doug Jones) who babbles about hostile creatures living in the
walls.

As
Callie discovers the missing Daniel is just one of a string of mysterious
disappearances over the years, all connected to the tunnel, it becomes clear
that something very unnatural is going on in the neighbourhood.

Crowd
funded by a Kickstarter campaign, Absentia is
an eerie, deeply unsettling little chiller that’s as much a study of love, loss
and grief as it is a horror movie with monsters roaming the
streets. While it has its fair share of jolts and hide behind the
sofa scares, it’s a subtle slow-burner that’s very normality feels alien and
threatening. Essentially an urban fairytale, Absentia’s vision of suburbia is as dangerous
and threatening as any deep, dark wood, the creatures that lurk there as
malevolent and unforgiving as any witch or troll from folklore.

Flanagan’s script and direction are tight and
economical and the relative newcomers Courtney Bell and Katie Parker are
fantastic as the two estranged sisters grappling with a force beyond their
understanding. Their performances have both the awkwardness and the
easy intimacy of real siblings, a lived-in quality that’s familiar,
normal. As the pregnant Tricia, Bell’s fragile vulnerability belies
her inner steel while Parker’s Callie is hesitant, unsure of herself, a
reluctant heroine plagued by the inner demons she thought she’d laid to
rest. They’re ably supported by Dave Levine’s tough but sensitive
cop and the desperate and creepy Brown as Daniel Tricia’s husband while Hellboy and Pan’s Labyrinth star Doug Jones makes the most of his pivotal
cameo.

While
it does at times betray its miniscule budget, Absentia is a chillingly minimalist little horror flick that
will have you sleeping with the lights on. Dark, brooding and
intense, it deserves to be appreciated by as wide an audience as possible.

David Watson

David Watson is a screenwriter, journalist and 'manny' who, depending on time of day and alcohol intake could be described as a likeable misanthrope or a carnaptious bampot. He loves about 96% of you but there's at least 4% he'd definitely eat in the event of a plane crash. Email: david.watson@filmjuice.com

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