Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Streaming Surprise: Mike Flanagan's ABSENTIA is one truly creepy movie!

If you can stream Netflix, then you'll already know that the amount of choices you have simply boggles your mind -- and your decision-making processes. Let me help you out here. If you enjoy the occasional scary movie, do not let last year's ABSENTIA -- about a missing husband of seven years, the wife who is still putting up missing-person signage to locate him, her problematic sister, and the cop who's in love with the wife -- get by you. There's a reason it has won all those fright-festival awards (see poster above): This extraordinarily creepy movie is a real find.

Writer/director Mike Flanagan (shown at left) understands how to put together a movie on a very low budget, with the scares coming slowly and rather quietly at first. Set in one of those nondes-cript Los Angeles neigh-borhoods -- not exactly low-end, but not quite what you'd call "nice," either -- that has a fairly long tunnel connecting two outside areas (these pedestrian tunnels used to be fairly common in parts of L.A.), the movie boasts a cast of decent actors who all look very much like real people. Katie Parker (shown on the poster, above) has a lovely face; the rest -- including Courtney Bell, below, who plays the wife, simply look like quite ordinary folk. Certain players, in fact, who appear not-quite-normal (for instance, Morgan Peter Brown, who is shown at bottom), look a little more bizarre than would your everyday Hollywood actor -- for reasons that slowly become clear as  the movie proceeds.

Until we saw Absentia, just the other evening, I would have called The Pact the creepiest movie in a long while. Not anymore, for this one outdoes even Nicholas McCarthy's scary movie. Mr. Flanagan understand how to creep us out in a number of simple but effective ways -- from how to shoot that tunnel (below), together with its occasional occupant, to making a simple shower curtain scare the bejesus out of us by having something simultaneously going on at either of its two ends.

The theme here is "missing persons" -- and how, where and why they disappear. A few decades ago, the only-middling scare movie Wolfen gave us the New York City version of this. Absentia offers the L.A. explanation, and it's the winner, hands-down. The film is handled with less gore than subtlety, and while the special effects are kept to a bare minimum, the scares are definitely not.

To say any more would simply help spoil things, so those of you who can stream Netflix, click here. The rest of you, try to find this movie elsewhere. Available now on DVD and from iTunesAbsentia, distributed by Phase 4 Films, has a running time of 87 minutes.

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