Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

I donít require a hell of a lot from my movies, I really donít.  The only thing Iím kind of a stickler on is that the movies I watch at least make an effort to make a little bit of sense.  If the butler did it, and the only reason the screenwriter can think of for why the butler did it is that the butler was nuts, then Iíll buy that.  I meet crazy people every single day and though it may be a lame resolution, at least itís a resolution of some sort.  This leads me to todayís discussion of the a film by director Nacho Cerda, ĎThe Abandonedí, which while rich with atmosphere and spookiness and foreboding, doesnít make a lick of gatdamn sense.  Not a single solitary lick.

Our film, which takes place in Russia, opens forty years past with a Russian family settling down to dinner.  Soon they are interrupted by the loud sounds of a truck crashing into their property, and when the patriarch steps out to see what the ruckus is all about he finds a dying woman in the driverís seat, sitting in a pool of her own blood and a pair of screaming twin infants lying next to her.  Fast forward 40 years where American Marie Jones (Anastasia Hille) is in Russia attempting to find information about her birth parents, which can be difficult in post Soviet Union Russia.  Fortunately Marie has an EXTREMELY helpful liaison by the name of Misharen (Valentin Ganey) who has info on Marieís mother and also gives her a deed to some property she subsequently owns off in the middle of nowhere.  Marie suffers from terminal misery as she is one sour ass lady and she is convinced that her misery originates somehow from her Russian origins.  She finds a mysterious driver, who a freaky old Russian woman tries to warn her about, but of course she doesnít listen, and they climb into an old truck and make the long journey to this island in the middle of nowhere that was Marieís birth home.

When they get to this joint the driver immediately disappears into the blackness leaving Marie to stumble around the incredibly spooky house with evil looking baby doll remains laying around.  After a minute or two of snooping around, Marie runs into a wet, eyeless, slow moving version of herself which for some reason scared the snot out of her, sending her fleeing out of the house and into the islands surrounding waters which always spells trouble for a person who canít swim.  When Marie awakes she is being tended to by an equally sour Russian cat who Marie immediately attacks.  After she is calmed down it turns out that this guy, Nicolai (Karl Roden), is the twin brother Marie didnít know she had who was also sent to the house by the very, very helpful Misharin.  Nicolai also has a half eaten eyeless doppelganger stalking him as well, and shooting his doppelganger only serves to f-up his own self real bad so thatís out.  Thereís a reason that brother and sister are reunited at this house with their birthdays only hours away, and Iím thinking this reason begins with D and ends with H.  Uh... that's DeatH.

ĎThe Abandonedí is one of the 8 horror films presented at the Ďto die for horror festí that was released earlier this year and of the four Iíve seen thus far, this one is the best.  This largely rests on the incredible use of visuals by director Cerda working in conjunction with Director of Photography Xavier Gimenez.  Combine these visuals with the directorís skill of creating atmosphere and his ability to manipulate his environments to create the maximum spooky effect and you are immersed in a movie that conveys feelings that just feels Ďwrongí.  The acting is above par as well with Hille playing a frazzled, distraught, miserable American quite well and Karl Roden being a veteran of countless B-movies, in which he usually plays a Russian heavy, turning in a nice turn as the confused but brave brother. 

The problem with ĎThe Abandonedí, and itís a big one, is the story makes almost no sense whatsoever.  I donít feel like getting into spoilers so I wonít but there is a supernatural element to this film which the filmmakers chose not to even to try to justify or explain.  I mean even the most mundane explanation would have served me just fine, but there was none forthcoming.  The film is also narrated in the beginning and end by Marieís daughter which was another confusing plot device that served little service to the story. 

Personally I thought all of the elements where here in ĎThe Abandonedí for what could have been a horror classic, and even still it is better than a lot of the horror crap that Iíve seen this past year despite itís gaping flaws.  Itís because of the high level of craft that the director, actors and crew have displayed in this film that it is ultimately a disappointment.  With just a few tweaks here and there to the scriptÖ Okay, maybe a complete overhaul here and there to script, I would be left with little choice but laud praises on this clever horror picture, but as it stands it is worth watching simply as a demonstration on how a horror movie should look and feel, but not how a horror movie should be.

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