MOVIE: **1/2 (out of 5)
DVD EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
A few weeks back, I heard the buzz surrounding “Absentia,” and I was eager to see it. It’s a micro-budget film that wowed some people at the festivals and turned some heads upon its DVD release. With that said, the hype might have been a bit too much for this, and “Absentia” is probably better viewed cold.
The story follows a woman whose husband has been missing for years. Her sister comes to live with her while recovering from drug addiction and to help file the final pieces to declaring the missing husband dead in absentia. However, as the story moves forward, we learn that the disappearance might have a greater explanation involving a mysterious creature that emerges from a dark passage near the house.
In theory, I really liked “Absentia.” It’s got a neat hook and tells a decent story. Additionally, as a spotlight on microbudget indie filmmaking, it’s an inspiration. The film was shot on a shoestring budget with very little technology behind it aside from a quality camera that could shoot in low light.
Sadly, “Absentia” is weighted down with the trappings of microbudget filmmaking. While some shots look brilliant and well composed, about three-quarters of the film is shot with rather uninspired cinematography. This is not uncommon for indie films that have certain key scenes thought through with perfection, but the filler is left for either standard shooting or poor composition.
Additionally, with such a tight budget, there was nothing left for creature effects. This often helps to build suspense, but there needs to be a payoff for not showing a monster throughout the movie. In “Absentia,” there’s no payoff for this at all, and that weakens the film. In the behind-the-scenes interviews found in the special features, the filmmakers brag about how this isn’t a typical horror film and exists more in the psychological realm, but that plays more as an excuse to not deliver on the non-psychological elements that are promised throughout the flick.
So, “Absentia” does work to a certain degree and can be a gem found among lesser films. However, there was so much more it could have been. It’s one of those movies that could benefit from a higher-budget remake, as long as that doesn’t go too far in the other direction.
The special features on this disc includes a 30-minute behind-the-scenes featurette called “Absentia: A Retrospective,” which takes a look at the low-budget filmmaking used for this movie as well as the camera used and how it fits in the horror realm. Additional features includes a commentary track by the producer and actor, camera test teaser, deleted scenes and the theatrical trailer.