I'm a sucker for a movie that starts with questions. The first shots of ABSENTIA show a woman taking down a "missing" poster. It's tattered and falling apart and the woman replaces it with a new flyer. What follows is a slow reveal of information via character interaction and lots of subtle creepiness. The movie is mostly about two sisters, one of them dealing with that missing person poster and its repercussions.
The budget information I could find online indicated that this film cost about $70,000. That is pretty remarkable as it is a highly effective, well-made, intelligent horror film and though it shows signs of this micro-budget in parts, overall the filmmakers have done a great job here. I've always been a fan of indie horror films. Lower budgeted features along these lines can really be garbage or they can be like ABSENTIA and take the challenges presented by a lack of money and turn them into something simple, and quite effective. One thing that often bothers me about low-budget horror is the fact that even in a situation where you'd think the filmmakers could take the creative freedom they have to make something interesting and original, they often end up being fairly retread-ish as far as the stories they are trying to tell. ABSENTIA, while it hints at a few other horror films I've seen before, for the most part kept me guessing and on edge throughout its 91 mins. There's a great old quote from Quentin Tarantino about how a good story unfolds. Not a quick left turn here or a right turn there, but it just unfolds. He's talking about not making a film that basically sets up everything that's going to happen in the first 15 or 20 mins. ABSENTIA definitely avoids that structure and goes for something atmospheric, ambiguous and surreal. It's not just weird for weird's sake though. It is grounded in some real emotion. It deals with issues of loss, closure and the unknowable. A lot of it is more straight drama with horror elements mixed in. The horror stuff is sprinkled in so consistently though. The filmmakers have found a way to make things scary just as you're getting lulled into the drama. The acting was quite solid throughout which really impressed me. Maybe it was the time of night that I watched it (around midnight), but the movie em affected me in a physiological way like I haven't had in a while. It gave me chills in several parts and at one point, when I rested my hand on my leg I felt goosebumps. I gotta give the movie props for getting under my skin like it did. Cool little horror flick for sure.
--This disc includes two commentary tracks: 1) with writer/director Mike Flanagan and all of the principle casts members. It's a decent track and of interest for how all of these folks talk about how they experienced the process of making the film.
2) the second track features producer Morgan Peter Brown, Mike Flanagan and Joe Wicker and Justin Gordon. For me , the more enjoyable of the two tracks. A lot more fascinating information about how a film like this gets conceived and produced from start to finish. Educational and informative as well as entertaining.
--'ABSENTIA - A Retrospective'(33 mins) Cool little making-of piece with the director, cast, and producers.
--ABSENTIA teaser camera test (1 min)
--Deleted Scenes (5 mins).