I'm a sucker for DVD cover art that features beautiful naked or almost naked women being dragged to their possible deaths by monsters or unseen forces. The mind runs wild at the possibilities, so why not give Absentia a shot? It did do its job by catching my eye.
Absentia takes place in a fictitious town of some kind (Glendale, CA, actually) where Callie (Katie Parker) has come to stay with her sister Tricia (Courtney Bell). Tricia's husband Daniel has been missing for seven years now and she is finalizing the paper work to declare him "dead by absentia." Callie is there to lend moral support and has also finished "touring" the Unites States. She's had problems with her family for a long time and has put that behind her.
Tricia finally starts to get on with her life when she starts seeing Daniel wherever she turns. She tries to keep this on the hush-hush from Callie, but Callie has a run-in with a creepy individual in an even creepier tunnel right across the street from the house that rants and babbles something she can't quite understand.
The crap hits the fan when one day out of the blue Daniel shows up, as Tricia is about to go on a hot date with the Detective of her case. Major buzz kill. The police get involved in the investigation while Callie starts her own. She investigates the tunnel and also starts to experience "hauntings" of her own.
Absentia has an interesting take on the whole monster genre without having actual monsters. It plays almost on a metaphysical level. It's almost like a low budget version of the The Mist. The film stalls out in a couple of spots which left me a bit on the ancy side, because I wanted it to continue the flow it had before it stopped. I do give major props to the filmmakers for making the film on a $70,000 budget. Most of it was raised via crowd funding, but who cares, it got made.
Me, I'm a monster whore who likes seeing creatures and the like on the screen. I understand that Absentia carries the whole "what you don't see is scarier than what you do see" mentality and that's fine and all, but I think they could have gone out a little bit more. Mainly due to it being a low budget film. In these types of scenarios you need to get everything you can up on that screen otherwise you will lose the audience a bit. That's probably why I can't recommend the film any higher than a 2-star.
Absentia is a curious project, but not necessarily unwatchable as it has more cool things that not. I liked the lead actress and my boy Doug Jones is in it, so that saves it. It was also shot on the low-end with a high-end camera. I also give it props in the location department, because it was shot in a neighboring city of mine. I have a vague idea where the creepy the tunnel featured is located. See, it's not all that bad.
Video: Absentia is presented in 480p (upscaled to 1080p) - 1.78:1 widescreen. Absentia was shot on the Canon Mark 5D camera. Considering this is a DVD and it cannot support the resolution (upscaling doesn't count) it does look about as good as any DVD could. Outdoor scenes are bright, sunny, and look great. Contrast levels remain steady as do black levels. Softness is never an issue except during certain scenes in the tunnel. Flesh tones also remain natural and unnatural whenever the dearly departed show up. Absentia looks great on DVD and I assume it will look great on Blu-ray, as well.
Absentia is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and it also includes a French Dolby Digital 5.1 track, too. Dialogue is front and center; the rear channels carry the creepiness of the tunnel to the back and totally immerse the viewer in darkness. The LFE also does some heavy lifting during scenes of dread. The sound design team should be commended for their great handling of the otherworldly sonics considering the budget of the film.
Absentia has a small smattering of extras that include a retrospective, a producer and actor commentary, camera test teaser, deleted scenes, and a trailer. It's not a bad package considering the film is uber low budget. My favorite of the extras would have to be the retrospective. They crowd funded the film on Kickstarter and raised $15,000 towards the making of the film, but their marketing video is hilarious! It made me laugh and I was like, yep this is how you do it. The commentaries could have been better, because you have all of these people talking over each other that it got kind of difficult trying to figure who was talking when. The film was shot on a Canon Mark 5D camera and the footage from the teaser test looks exactly as it does in the finished film - that's a good thing.
Absentia could have been fleshed out a bit more; I give props on getting out there and making a low budget film, but there are instances where the film stops and then barely picks back up. If you're going to start/stop then you better start back up in a fury otherwise you will lose the audience. I can be a jerk about the whole thing and say, "skip it," but this is good stuff if you're an aspiring filmmaker. Use the film as research and learn the pitfalls of low budget independent filmmaking and marketing. Rent it.