Directed by Nacho Cerda
When The Abandoned was first announced as one of the titles being put together by the Spanish production house Filmax, it immediately grabbed my interest because of the names involved: Nacho Cerda (director of the infamous short “Aftermath”), Karim Hussein (director of Subconscious Cruelty), and Richard Stanley (helmer of Dust Devil). To me their credentials meant we would be in for more than just your standard ghost story when it was all said and done, and thankfully that’s exactly what we get from The Abandoned.
American movie producer Marie Jones (Hille) has been trying to find out about her birth parents for over 40 years. She was born in Russia but raised in the UK before making her way to L.A., and because adoption records back in 60’s Russia were less than reliable, it’s been an almost continuous uphill battle. Then one day she gets a telegram that she has inherited a piece of land in Russia once owned by her birth mother and makes the trip she hopes will answer all her questions.
When she gets to the isolated farm once owned by her parents, she finds it in a state of ruin and disrepair, having not housed anyone since her mother’s murder shortly after Marie’s birth. The farm is located on an island that’s only accessible by a bridge and to date no one has been brave enough to try and reclaim it, letting it go back to nature instead.
She’s driven there by a man who soon disappears, forcing her to examine the desolate old farm on her own. Soon after entering she comes face to face with her own doppelganger, a dead version of herself who is soaked to the bone and does nothing but stare with wide, cataract-filled eyes. Marie understandably freaks out and runs off into the woods, falling down an embankment into the icy river below.
She’s rescued from one watery death by Nikolai (Roden), a man who claims to be her twin brother who’s there for the same reason she is — answers — and has been in the house a few days already. He’s seen his own walking corpse as well, and when the two of them come face to face with their dead selves and try to fight them, they quickly and painfully learn that whatever is done to their doubles happens to them.
Nikolai theorizes that their doubles are there to take them to the other side as the old superstition goes that if you see your doppelganger, it means you’re going to die, so the two of them try to piece the story together of just what happened to their mother on the night of her murder and why their own lives are now in danger because of it.
It might sound like something you’ve seen before, but trust me; The Abandoned is one of the darkest, creepiest films I’ve seen in a long time that bears little to no resemblance to any film in recent memory. I knew we’d get something special from Cerda, but even I didn’t hope for something as compelling and disturbing as The Abandoned turned out to be. The film looks amazing, thanks in no small part to The Machinist cinematographer Xavi Gimenezs, a very grim and depressing looking environment that couldn’t have been more suited to this film.
Though both of the leads are fantastic, my only real complaint about The Abandoned can be blamed somewhat on them; there are a few scenes in which you really think some questions are going to be asked and answered that are not, I’m sure a way of keeping the dread quotient up as long as possible. Characters in situations like this, in which unexplained things are happening all around them, really need to be wondering what the hell is going on a bit more often than they seem to. I know I sure would be.
The sets and the sound design are two more amazingly effective elements of The Abandoned, both of which capture the bleakness of the film perfectly, evoking an almost palpable sense of doom from the moment Marie arrives at her family’s homestead. It’s clear that all those involved carefully reviewed every aspect of creating the movie in order to create the most effective horror film possible, and the final package is one of the most beautiful and haunting pieces of cinema I’ve had the pleasure to see.
It doesn’t really need to be said, but I’m greatly appreciative of the guys at After Dark Films and Lionsgate for bringing this to theaters, even if it was only for one weekend. The only other chance you’d have to see it on the big screen was at a typical film festival ,and how many people get to go to those?
I hope you got to see The Abandoned during HorrorFest, but if you didn’t, make sure to track it down on DVD when it is released if you’re looking for something creepy, genuinely scary, and above all else, original.
4 1/2 out of 5