The Abandoned

Director: Nacho Cerda

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

The Abandoned A middle aged divorced woman (Anastasia Hille) arrives in Russia looking for her long-lost past. She ends up in a rural piece of land inherited from her murdered mother (Paraskeva Djukelova), a woman she never knew.

The property is an isiolated island in a river, accessible by a single bridge. A reticent Russian man, Anatoliy (Carlos Reig-Plaza), gets her to this place after dark, then disappears. By sound FX & rustling in the woods it's all made to seem spooky, but ignore the sound cues & what you see is a nice old house in the forest, long abandoned & in pretty severe need of a paint job.

The implications that the place is haunted gets lost & confused in the excessive & botched editing tricks. Plus some totally irrational behavior on our heroine's part -- like running blindly into the river for no earthly reason -- leads to a suspicion she's just nuts & it really is just a nice old house in the woods. The film is frustrating in taking too long to seem to be about anything at all.

Eventually Marie encounters her twin brother Nicolai (Karel Roden) who had arrived in similarly strange circumstances. Plus she encounters a "ghost" who manifested as a blind version of herself. All very mysterious, with good acting & cinematogrpahy, but a continuingly confused plot.

The AbandonedAs if the film's creative team decided they'd bored us for long enough, it begins to leap over the top, with bizarre blind zombie doppelgangers for each of the two primary characters.

When they attempt to turn on these frightening look-alikes, any injury to a doppelganger becomes their own injury.

What the final act becomes is old-fashioned EuroShock exploitation such as never cared if the story made sense, & here it is all moved into the context of a film that otherwise has a tone of serious filmmaking.

The irrationalities of story construction begin to feel stylized rather than errors of plotting or editing, resulting in an increasingly surreal version of haunted house events. It never stops being annoying that, even in the context of the supernatural, none of it makes a lick of sense. But the suggestiveness of such set decorations as the creepy dolls, the night-photography, & overall atmospherics, almost convince the viewer it must have some sensibleness locked up in it somewhere.

Strangeness builds atop strangeness with an almost Lovecraftian cthonic mood & implications that never pay off, the house having dismal wet basement passages leading to tunnels or caverns, upping the ante for the standard "let's go in the basement for no good reason" scene.

The AbandonedOften what happens on the screen would've been nonsensical without the cleverly arranged score that is always telling the viewer how to respond.

I had a sneaking suspicion there was clear meaning in an early version of the script, or early edit of the film, but the meaning was so ridiculous test-audiences laughed. So they changed it to remain inexplicable or meaningless.

A horrific "ghostly reenactment" becomes a time travel event, to an extent, uniting a horrific past to the mysterious present. When all twists & surprises are finally revealed, it remains a little dissatisfying, but if the illogical flow is not too much pondered & you go with it without concern for sensibility, it's a spooky visually slick ride.

It is certainly heads & tails above trashy horror, but only a little better than average for the slightly rarified genre of atmospheric thrillers that are big on style, small on substance. No question but that it will make a percentage of the audience jump, though. Viewers made to feel skittish with expectation might not mind that it doesn't actually mean anything.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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