Monday, October 3, 2011

HALLOWEENAGE #8: ABSENTIA (2011)

This is going to be a little different, so people who arrived via Google Image Search or whatever might want to skip it.  Also, I saw this at a con, so I don't have screenshots.

Horror is necessarily generally good at some things and bad at others.  Horror movies can evoke a surprisingly wide range of reactions, from the splattery fun of the FINAL DESTINATIONs to the distressing nihilism of something like CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST.  One thing horror isn't exceptionally great at doing is creating emotional resonance in the same way that a well-done drama can.  You could probably tick off the list of really cathartic, emotionally-wrenching horror movies on a single hand.  SESSION 9 is a pretty good example because that last line makes you feel it.  FRAILTY, too, lingers with you long after the movie is over.  Those kinds of horror movies are very rare and, on the rare moments when the genre does touch that kind of nerve, it's usually not emotionally cleansing in the way a disease-of-the-week tearjerker would be.  There is no ray of sunshine even on the day of the funeral.  Because horror doesn't offer that kind of resolution.  Because it's about dark things: isolation; loss; death.

ABSENTIA is that kind of horror movie.  The IMDB synopsis is pretty accurate: "A woman and her sister begin to link a mysterious tunnel to a series of disappearances, including that of her own husband."  But that doesn't capture what's special about it.  The tone of the film is just suffocatingly mournful and bleak, even from the outset.  The woman is Tricia, who's both newly pregnant and just started to get over the disappearance of her husband seven years ago.  Her sister is Callie, who's squandered a lot of time and chances on drug habits and bad choices.  The detective who's been assigned to her husband's case is interested in Tricia, but relationships of any sort in ABSENTIA are impossible things.  Love and affection are so distant from this world of constant discomfort and pain.  Then Tricia's husband shows up.

There are supernatural elements and jump scenes and special effects, but the thing that sticks with you about the film is its adept handling of loss.  It's so effective that I'd probably recommend holding off on viewing it if you've gone through a recent death.  It's just so suffused in sadness, more akin to something like IN THE BEDROOM in a lot of ways than your average rubber-suit monster movie.  It wouldn't work as well if the directing, editing, and performances weren't top notch, but (of course) they are.  I doubt that I will see a better horror film this year and will be very disappointed if ABSENTIA doesn't get the chance to attract the audience it deserves.


 


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