Friday, July 20, 2012
Movie Appraisal: Absentia (2011)
Okay, here's an interesting film that I have mixed feelings about in so many ways. This movie is simultaneously very interesting, almost thought-provoking in some ways, and also very dull in others. It's yet another horror film without horror. It's yet another movie that should be terrifying and yet really only comes off as a boring yarn. That's not quite fair,but I certainly found myself less than interested in the entire movie. The story and execution could have been done so much better, but ultimately were done poorly because of the lack of focus on anything even remotely interesting. And that's why this movie feels schizophrenic. It feels all over the place. It feels like it's trying to do everything, succeeds in some areas, but fails in most.
It would be unfair to call Absentia a bad film though. It's certainly not a bad movie, but it never really feels like its own thing. It never really has its own identity. The closest it comes is when it's showing the tunnel, usually the inside of the tunnel, and usually Doug Jones is involved as well. That's the best part of the film. But the movie really bogs down when the story is explored. The two sisters are less than interesting people. Callie (played by Katie Parker) never has more than the most minor of character development, shown as a little wild, a little drugged up, and a Christian. But that's not three-dimensional character development, it's just a list of what she is rather than who she is. Her sister is done slightly better in general, but Tricia (played by Courtney Bell) has her own issues of being a little too intense at times, again not showing the range of emotions she almost certainly should be showing.
So, this movie was a Kickstarter project. If you haven't heard of Kickstarter, well... it's a website where people can try to crowdfund a project, in this case a movie. And I have to show that it is certainly apparent that the budget was not huge for this movie. That being said, I don't really care if the movie looks amazing or looks terrible. Well shot movies can be just as bad as terribly shot movies, but I didn't like the aesthetics of this film. They turned me off constantly, with nothing in the movie looking particularly good at all... but also nothing in the movie looking awful or horrifying either. I'm not even saying that stuff looked mundane. It just didn't look good.
It was a disappointing film for me. I had heard about it for a while and had been trying to see it for a while. The first chance I get to see it, and all I see is not so great acting, a movie that doesn't look good, and hectic direction that just doesn't work. Now, I'm usually kind of nice to these independent films, but I just had a ton of problems with this film, probably because I actually really enjoyed both the premise and the story, but was incredibly disappointed with the execution. Everything felt wrong with the execution, from the acting to the direction by Mike Flanagan. The only actors that stuck out to me as being very good were the few scenes with Doug Jones and Morgan Peter Brown as Daniel, but only towards the end of his appearance in the film.
The movie's plot is pretty much: Tricia's husband disappears for seven years. He's going to be declared dead in absentia. Callie comes to give Tricia some moral support with Daniel being declared dead and also with Tricia having a baby on the way, and then Daniel shows up. Most of the film though is really very dry, and if you have no understanding or liking of the characters it becomes very hard to watch indeed. There are scenes that are almost baffling to me why they are in the movie. for example the scenes where Daniel is describing the bug-things is pretty good, but actually showing those bug things out of the corner of the screen is much less effective. The movie is not scary except one very small scene basically at the end of the film where Callie isn't specific enough about her request and something bad happens. (If you've seen the movie you know what I'm talking about.) That right there was a well done scene, but was also one of the few very well done scenes.
I don't even know what else to say. This was not a good movie to me. Honestly it was a movie that offered me very little. It didn't look good. It didn't sound good. The acting wasn't particularly compelling. Yes, the story made the movie a little worth it, and the lines and writing were also pretty decent, but for the most part I could have never seen this movie and would not have missed a thing. I can't recommend this movie. Hell, I can barely even talk about it. It has nothing really to offer and definitely comes off more as a boring execution of an interesting idea than a total failure... but that doesn't make the movie any better. I hate ripping into an independent film like this, but I was not a fan despite thinking that I might really like this movie. There's nothing else to say. Avoid this movie if at all possible. I hate being harsh, but this was just not well done in my opinion. I am totally baffled as to why... how... it won awards for this... and why I'm not seeing the brilliance that others obviously did. Am I missing something? Did I go comatose in the scene that makes the movie good? I don't think I did.
Anyway, this is a disappointing flick and should be avoided. Its premise is great, but the execution leaves a ton to be desired.