The Abandoned is a visceral, vein expanding experience. Acclaimed short film director Nacho Cerdà’s feature length debut possesses qualities either extinct or seldom seen in American horror productions, especially those with studio backing. Elaborate, cold visuals of isolation, decrepitude, murder, and undead doppelgangers. The sound mix, the acting, the production design, the makeup, the effects, the build. All calculated. All near perfect. All defiant and all brutal.
Orphaned right out of the crib, a now 41 year old Marie (Anastasia Hille) returns to her Russian birth site to help cushion growing fears of loneliness and identity disassociation. A meeting with her adoption agent reveals the truth behind her heritage: matricide by the hands of the father in the farm house where she was born. Met with much local resistance, Marie manages to arrive at the farm in the middle of the night. Ditched by her reluctant driver, she explores the dilapidated house on her own. The fear sets in with a quickness as Marie bumps into a long dead, pupil-less copy of her self. Running for her life, she falls into the river and awakens back in the house under the care of a secretive man claiming to be her twin brother, Nicolai.
And thus the mystery of the house, its doppelgangers and the 41 year dormant trap that brought them there unfolds.
The film features an astounding, deafening sound mix from Glenn Freemantle that becomes a character of its own early on with the seamless bleeding of infant screams into the roar of jet engines. Cerdà micromanages the sound usage expertly and combines it with set and art decoration whose peer list is limited only to Christophe Gans’ Silent Hill and, more importantly, Brad Anderson’s Session 9. It could even be said with confidence that The Abandoned is the first film since Session 9 to forge so many great, inanimate components into a nightmare haunting character all its own.
Anastasia Hille’s acting is some of the best work the genre has had the pleasure of receiving in years. Accompanied with brother Nicolai (Karel Roden), their fear leaps off the screen, making the woeful exploration of the time stripped halls of their inherited death-trap of a house and run ins with their dead selves all the more thrilling. Each revelation as to their past – the most crucial of which is delivered in a fascinating scene with a flashlight and a blood soaked bed – and each row with their dead counterparts stabs with immediacy.
And when the film reaches its chaotic conclusion, it does it with gusto and bravery. It cannot be denied that moments of dialogue or narrative choices could have been tweaked for the better, but any flaws are insignificant compared to the dominating effect of the visual and audible side of things.
The Abandoned is an out and out triumph. Judging by the audience reaction to it, its flavor is a bit more refined than what American audiences are accustomed to, but true genre fans will enter the credits with a refreshing feeling of utmost satisfaction not achieved since Brad Anderson’s aforementioned Session 9. Do not miss this movie when the opportunity comes ’round again.