Starring Sarah Nicklin, Robert E. Wilhelm, Judith O’Dea, Carlos Ramirez, Christopher Parker
Directed by Mark W. Curran
Distributed by Left Films
Security guard Rachel (Nicklin) finds her Memorial Day weekend interrupted when her employer calls on her to provide last-minute cover at the sinister Mayfield Addiction Clinic on the bad side of town.
Given that she carries a fear of the dark, Rachel reluctantly agrees under the stipulation that her boss have someone to replace her before midnight – but when he later informs her that he hasn’t been able to find anyone available to work, Rachel’s stuck for the night.
During the course of her shift, Rachel stumbles around with her flashlight as she becomes subject to creepy phone calls, phantom door-knocking, the presence of odious caretaker Mr. Simms (Parker) and the startling appearance of a few grim-looking apparitions.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the city – or maybe somewhere else entirely – hard-boiled detective Phillip Haggis (Ramirez) is on the trail of a serial killer… a case which just might tie into the horrors befalling Rachel at the clinic.
Or maybe it won’t… because Abandoned Dead is a mess.
To get it out of the way quickly, writer/director Mark W. Curran makes the cardinal sin of padding out his film with Haggis’ slovenly detective work in such a manner that if these scenes were to be removed entirely, there would be little to no effect on the overall narrative.
Equally poor is the presentation of these sequences, which see the detective stagger through the streets whilst a woefully self-satisfied voiceover does its convoluted best to sound poignant and hard-edged, backed up by a soundtrack that sounds ripped straight from a Tex Murphy videogame – but completely lacking the self-awareness of said gaming lampoonery.
In an attempt to tie the two stories together, Abandoned Dead sees Haggis receive random phone calls via public phone – a creepy voice informing him “she’s not safe.” Yet once both stories have shambled to their conclusions, this potentially supernatural element is all but abandoned in favour of a psycho-drama revelation that only widens the divide between these threads rather than bringing them together.
Is Haggis real? Who committed the murders? Where did he suddenly find the answers he was looking for? Did he actually find answers? What the hell is any of this supposed to mean? Who actually cares at this point?
On the plus side, this sudden final act switch and slapdash attempt at resolution does bring to the screen the best performance to be found within Abandoned Dead, in the form of Judith O’Dea’s kindly psychiatrist Dr. Myers. While lead Sarah Nicklin does perfectly well in her role, she’s resigned to little more but wandering around looking confused and/or scared throughout – and this being a predominantly one woman show means the script’s characterisation failings cause long, boring stretches where our wafer-thin protagonist does little but wander around and shriek. It’s a pretty strong condemnation of Abandoned Dead that the most life found within is from a bit-player in the final minutes.
Curran does his best to generate tension but is only sporadically successful (darkness doesn’t automatically create fear), and the more forceful fright scenes tend to fall flat leaving Abandoned Dead a meandering, uninteresting snooze-fest. Given the setup and some of the basic happenings, comparisons to Anthony DiBlasi’s far superior Last Shift are inevitable – but where DiBlasi’s film successfully spent its focus on scaring the shit out of you with a sense of class, Abandoned Dead tries to play it smart on all fronts… but ends up less coherent (and less entertaining) than the ramblings of a drunken vagrant.