Sunday, January 3

Some quick thoughts on The Abandoned (2006)

Most horror fans know of Nacho Cerdà from his once underground gore tease, 1994's Aftermath. Widely circulated on VHS with a gruesome cover, the short details the necrophiliac fumblings of an embalmer and a freshly dead female corpse. Unearthed Films digitally debuted this nasty exercise with two other Cerdà early short subjects on DVD a few years ago and while extreme, the director displays genuine talent for precise cinematography in each.

The Abandoned marks Cerdà's first feature-length film, snapped up by After Dark Films and Lionsgate for a lightning speed theatrical run and belated inclusion in the first 8 Films to Die For DVD series. A woman (Marie, a bland Anastasia Hille) travels into the wilds of Russia to a foreboding forested homestead in an attempt to discover the circumstances of her mother's mysterious death and identity of her father. Upon arrival, she finds the home dilapidated with the only other occupant her long lost twin brother (Nicolai, Czech "that guy" actor Karel Roden) who was left abandoned with Marie when they were just infants found beside their dead mother. The two soon encounter another presence, ghastly doppelgangers of themselves, as the terror only increases with the silbling's approaching birthday.

Spoilers ahoy, so be forewarned. The Abandoned has so much promise, but ultimately this potential is chopblocked by massive final half logic leaps and nonsensical twists that only appear intelligent. The most engaging aspect are the decaying mirrors of the twins who are the embodiment of how they were supposed to die as infants by the hands of their enraged father. The story's point is that Marie and her brother were destined to die with fate only catching up decades later upon a return to their place of birth. It's sometimes better to let sleeping dogs lie.

While that's not exactly a fresh idea, it's one usually found somewhere within the constraints of ghostly yarns like this, and for awhile Cerdà's film really has you going both with its revelations and scares. There's quite a few moments that will made you jump, even if the abandoned interiors of the house echo the damp, ripped wallpaper motif of the Silent Hill universe. Cerdà's cold eye behind the camera masks much of the low budgetary ceiling and the principles deliver serviceable performances. The real problem is the aforementioned last reel when so many unexplained twists come so fast it's as if the film goes apeshit trying to conform to a tidy runtime instead of letting its natural course ride out.

Instead of methodically unspooling like Jacob's Ladder or Let's Scare Jessica to Death, The Abandoned seems to feel obligated to make an impact on those bored with its creepy tension. In return, we're subjected to flounder-floppin' turns, multiple conclusions, and what was fairly obvious at the midpoint coming to pass with little surprise. Less would have definitely been more and personally I would have been content with the creepy-as-all-shit doppelgangers being the sole source of the twin's fate over the spastic last twenty minute runaround.


DrunkethWizerd said...

Hey Jay. I was actually one of the lucky ones to actually sit somewhat alone during the "lightning speed theatrical run" that hit. This movie played for ONE WEEK!(maybe less)... Somewhat the same with High Tension. I was acually shocked that they even showed em. It's a good thing that I pay attention, because it's rare sometimes.

I saw both alone. While High Tension completely beat me off into a painful submission... Abandoned simply had me drizzling tha juice. I like the film, though, something was off about it. I think you figured it out for me. Since that day I haven't seen the film again, but I do remember a lot of the scenes and I remember digging the whole vibe. But no, at that last moment, I wasn't blown away.

That being said, Nacho Cerdà needs to get some more films out there in the US theatrical release. I was all hyped up that day... just me and my trenchcoat.

Jayson Kennedy said...

Yeah, it's not bad, but pretty disappointing in the end. Seems like a great movie to catch in a theater though considering all the fright stunners it delivers. Cerdà needs to direct more movies, it looks like otherwise he has shorts and documentaries of horror that would be cool to see someday.

James Gracey said...

This had SO much potential. While it's a great looking film, with plenty of atmosphere and dread, it is severely hampered by rabid over-editing and a distinct lack of engagement with it's characters. I would be interested in checking out more of Nacho Cerdà's work though - the guy has a great eye for sinister visuals... you dare tread upon the staircase?

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