Review: Watch This - Absentia (2011)
Director: Mike Flanagan - Distributed by Phase 4 Films - Cert.18
Available in some territories on Netflix, others on Amazon Video
There are an absolute ton of horror films on Netflix. They all have posters that look reasonably decent and you can't tell a thing about them from the title or description. Smaller indie films (and big studio ones, for that matter) find ways of manipulating rating sites - so how the hell do you find one that's good?
Well, here's one. You may not have heard of this film, but Mike Flanagan's follow-up was the equally disturbing Oculus (2013) which got quite a bit of attention.
Despite the poster image, this is no all-out gore-fest. Just like Oculus this is pretty-much all psychological horror; there aren't limbs flying left right and centre. But it's creepy as heck.
A woman and her boyfriend come to town and stay with her sister. 7 years earlier Trisha's husband went missing, and 7 years is the point where a missing person can be declared "Missing in Absentia" - gone for so long that it's legally assumed that they're dead somewhere. Callie (played by Catherine Parker - and this is pretty much her show), the younger sister, is supportive and trying her best to help her sibling through all of this.
Opposite the house where her sister lives is a tunnel, a subway underpass. Callie walks about the neighborhood and she jogs and she begins to notice strange things about the entrance to this tunnel. Sometimes people staring at it, sometimes things left as strange offerings just at the opening, other times weird objects left lying in the tunnel itself.
It's a slow creep of a film - the strangeness and disturbing freaky and unexplained moments building and building until you actually find yourself dreading characters even just going up to the tunnel, let alone going inside. And then there are the other people who seem tied to the place - what happened to them? What's their story?
The writing, directing and central performance are extremely accomplished when you consider the budget this thing must have had and at no point do they feel the need to resort to easy shocks. Instead they prefer to just build tension. And it's scary. Properly scary.
And if you're watching a film where you eventually dread just looking at a subway underpass, then you know you're watching something pretty impressive.
Images and video property of Phase 4 Films