After Dark's Horrorfest was a collection of studio-rejected genre pictures thrown together last autumn for a miniature film festival; a chance for horror geeks to feed the one thing they lust for more than scares: the chance to discover the next "kool" flick. "The Abandoned" was the unofficial top film of the eight-picture party.
Though one of the promises made by the festival was the all-holy exclusivity, someone forgot to tell Lionsgate, which is slipping the film into theaters this weekend with little promotion and, of course, no press screenings. We wouldn't want those genre fans to make an informed opinion, now do we.
"Abandoned" is a ghost story, which essentially means forget any taste of logic, unique atmosphere, and decent characterization. By this point, I traditionally try to provide a short synopsis of the plot for my readers, so they can get a hint of how the story works. Trouble is, there's nothing to deconstruct in a film without a plot.
Director Nacho Cerda is a mood junkie, and that's what "Abandoned" boils down to. It's an assortment of sequences set in the dark, with a vague outline of phantoms and terror passing lethargically in front of the camera, and a screenplay that is dying for any scrap of filler it can get its hands on. The film cribs the encrusted sets of "Saw," the arcane ghosts of "Grudge," and uses matchsticks to illuminate the frame. "Abandoned" is grim, incoherent, and about as thrilling as a college lecture.
Cerda has no conception of pace or timing. "Abandoned" reflects a filmmaker so lost in the details of his creation, he's neglected his obligation to forward momentum. Without a story to work from, the picture is one protracted sequence of suspense. Actress Anastasia Hille spends most of the movie stalking around a grimy old home checking out rooms with a flashlight. Seriously, this simple act of investigation makes up at least 50% of the running time.
Now there's something in here about twins, murderous parents, birthday cake, twist endings, and menacing Russian farmland, but if you can figure out how it all connects, I admire your patience with such disingenuous filmmaking. "Abandoned" is a pure snooze, hiding behind safety glasses of horror to cover up some truly incompetent filmmaking and the most flagrant use of screenplay padding I've seen in the genre yet. Now I understand why no studio wanted to purchase this film in the first place.
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