Monday, August 27, 2018

Empty Nest

In the bizarre age of mail order ancestry blood tests (which seem terrifying to a paranoid conspiracist like me), let us all take a moment to acknowledge that horror movies have long taught us that investigating our roots can only lead to terrible, terrible things.

Quick Plot: "Somewhere in Russia" circa 1966, an isolated farm is taken by surprise when a truck crashes into its barn, revealing a dying female driver and a pair of screaming infants. Flash forward 40 years as one of the now-grown babies heads back to her motherland to meet with a notary and learn more about the lakeside property she's inherited.

Marie isn't thrilled with her new responsibilities, in part because waterfront Russian real estate isn't so exciting for a bitter American divorcee who can't swim. Once she arrives, her enthusiasm hits a much, much lower point.

Maybe it's the zombie-like double that starts shuffling her way, maybe it's the dilapidated property hiding secrets in its broken floorboards, or maybe it's the sudden appearance of hereto unheard of twin brother Nikolai. No matter how you look at it, Marie's situation is less than ideal, particularly when the mysterious house begins to rearrange itself with a serious aggressive streak.

As Marie and Nikolai observe Haunted Mansion-ish hologram flashbacks to their family's troubled history, the pair start to piece together their tragic past. Unfortunately, the house seems destined to relive it.

Released as part of the AfterDark Horrorfest of 2006, The Abandoned is decently made but incredibly forgettable. The script (by Karim Hussain and director Nacho Cerda, with some last minute rewrites by Hardware's Richard Stanley) does some intriguing things in centering itself on a 40-year-old single mother who seems to be stuck in lifelong depression, and lead actress Anastasia Hille makes for a refreshingly more layered final girl than we tend to find in these kinds of movies.  

All that being said, I just couldn't get into The Abandoned. What probably felt fresh 12 years ago in terms of plotting seems fairly rote today. An endless cycle that keeps you in the same setting, no matter how far you seem to wander? Great idea...that we've since seem dozes of times. 

High Points
Any fresh setting is always welcome, and in The Abandoned's case, the isolated Russian (well, Bulgarian) countryside offers some entrancing visuals

Low Points
On one hand, I appreciate Marie being such an atypical protagonist. On the other, it's hard to really to feel much for someone who seems so empty inside

Lessons Learned
When you see your doppelganger, it's time to die (hence why my plan upon seeing a doppeganger has always been to take no mercy)

I know some adults have their reasons, but considering this planet is 70% water, shouldn't we all learn how to swim?

And for those of us who don't, shouldn't we keep better track of our boats?

I was underwhelmed by The Abandoned, but it's a decent little thriller that handles more right than wrong. The tension just didn't click for me personally, but if the premise has interest to you, it's a worthwhile 90 minute watch via HBO Go.

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