Home Is Where the Haunt Is
The Abandoned was first released last fall as part of the After Dark Horrorfest series, one of "8 Movies to Die For" shown on the big screen for one weekend only. Seven of those films are set for DVD release later this month, but the powers that be saw fit to give "audience favorite" The Abandoned its own solo theatrical outing. Unfortunately, if this is the best movie of the bunch, I'm not eager to see the other Horrorfest offerings.
Over forty years have passed since movie producer Marie (Anastasia Hille) was taken as a newborn infant from her birthplace in Russia. Though she's struggled with her sense of identity all her life, forces have recently come into play revealing the identity of her dead mother and giving her ownership of the very farmhouse in which she was born. However, after arriving in Russia to survey the property, the obligatory Strange Things start to happen. Marie's driver simply vanishes into the night, she can't seem to find a bridge connecting the island farm to the mainland, and as she investigates the house, a man named Nicolai (Karel Roden) appears, claiming to be her twin brother.
Marie barely has time to register all this before things really start to get weird, as the pair soon become haunted by ghastly, zombie-like versions of themselves. Little do they know that events have been set in motion to recreate a tragedy which took place at the house decades ago, leaving Marie and Nicolai with very little time to stop history from repeating itself.
As I begrudgingly endured The Abandoned, my mind kept flashing back to The Return, another horror stinker from fall. There are quite a number of similarities between the two movies: both work on low budgets, both feature heroines with troubled pasts as their main characters, and their respective running times are mostly taken up by people wandering around and staring into space. The Abandoned isn't as inert as The Return, but it still has the same distinct lack of action and a mistaken mindset that confuses characters shuffling around dark rooms with suspense. Also, the movie is too long; a few snipped scenes would've made the time pass more quickly.
The Abandoned's events read like a shopping list of horror cliches, ranging from the heroine continually putting herself in danger long after realizing she can still get the heck out of Dodge to the token scary animals. For the most part, the characters bide their time doing things others have done in better horror movies. On the upswing, the acting is competent enough, the settings are appropriately foreboding, and there's one rather spooky sequence in which Marie's flashlight beam reveals a room's past horrors.
I believe The Abandoned could have been a succinct and scary cinematic yarn if presented as a half-hour short. In its current form, though, it's a bit like the same lame ghost story your uncle tells at the campfire year after year.
MY RATING: * 1/2 (out of ****)
(Released by Lionsgate and rated "R" for violence/gore, some disturbing images, nudity and language.)