Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Abandoned (2006)

After given a run at the After Dark Horrorfest, The Abandoned is now in a wider theatrical release after proving the be an audience favorite. I missed it at the Horrorfest, but had high hopes for it when I finally caught it in its second theatrical run.

Marie (Anastasia Hille) travels back to Russia to find out the mystery behind her birth parents. Her mother died at a young age and Marie was raised by her adoptive parents. All records of her and her birth parents were mysteriously lost...until now. The proper records have been recovered and now she is the heir to her family's farm. When she arrives at the long-abandoned and isolated farm, she also finds her long-lost twin brother, Nicolai (Karel Roden). As they begin to explore the property and house, strange things begin to happen. Marie and Nicolai are both haunted by their doppelgangers and discover startling things about their past and their birth parents. The house slowly reverts back 40 years to when their mother died as they scramble to figure out what is happening and why. Will history repeat itself or is there a way to change what has already occurred?

This movie was a mixed bag. It is beautifully and creepily shot featuring a dark, foreboding atmosphere. The performances are all solid, especially by leads Hille and Roden. The story though, is convoluted and unclear at times and doesn't feature as many scares or as much tension as I had anticipated. Directed by Nacho Cerda, infamous for his Aftermath/Genesis shorts, I was expecting a little more "oomph" to The Abandoned.

My favorite part of the film was the effects. As Marie and Nicolai explore the crumbling house armed with flashlights, some parts revert back to how they appeared on the fateful day of their mother's death. Sweeping her flashlight over her parents' bedroom, Marie even sees a horrifying scene played out in front of her. The finale, where the entire house reverts back to what it looked like 40 years ago, was visually stunning and very cool to watch. The makeup effects applied to the doppelgangers, all pale skin, blood and white eyes, were also well-done.

The story, though, left many plot points wide open and unresolved. I would have loved to see more interaction between Marie and the Russian family and truck driver she first encounters. Some extra character development of both Marie and Nicolai was very much needed as well. We get zilch in the way of what they've been up to for the past 40 years. Some background would have been helpful in forging some kind of emotional bond to the characters.

The "scares" throughout the film left something to be desired. The score gave plenty of notice as to when a scare was about to happen, which is what I hate about most horror movies today. If you are a horror fan and familiar with these tactics, you might jump once or twice, only to chide yourself for not seeing the scare coming a mile away. The tension throughout the film was so-so, but again was hindered by the swelling score whenever a scary moment was approaching.

The Abandoned is lacking that certain something which could have made it a great film. It sure is pretty to look at, but lacks any big scares, shocks or a well-developed storyline. Even though it was touted to be an "audience favorite" at the After Dark Horrorfest, I think there are far better films to be seen.

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