Abandoned, The (2006)

This horror flick is atmospheric and often frightening, but the lack of a solid narrative creates a lethargic pace. With little story to tell, the film quickly hits a plateau early and remains in cruise control until revelation of what’s really going on near the very end. Till then, it relies on the creepy presentation of its ghosts (actually doppelgangers) to maintain audience interest. The formula would have been wonderful as a half-hour short but feels needlessly protracted at feature length.
Anastasia Hille plays Marie, a middle-aged, divorced mother who returns to Russia after being contacted by a notary about inheriting her parents’ farmhouse. Marie, we learn, was adopted as a baby, after the deaths of her father and mother, about whom she knows nothing, despite attempts to track down information in the past. After a truck drive to the middle of nowhere, she ends up in the rundown property, which is surrounded by a river on all sides. There she meets Nicolai (Karel Roden), her twin brother, who claims to be in the same situation as she: trying to learn the truth of what happened to their parents. Marie and Nicolai find themselves haunted by white-eyed ghosts that look exactly like themselves – which Nicolai interprets as an omen that their deaths are soon to follow. Through flashbacks and ghostly apparitions, they learn that their father stabbed their mother, who survived long enough to shot the father and rescue the children, driving them to safety. After much wandering around in dark basements and deserted forests, including an abortive escape attempt, Marie and Nicolai find themselves back in the farm house as it looked on the night of the murder, apparently doomed to die as their father had intended all those years ago…
Hille and Roden turn in good performances as the bedeviled brother and sister, but the screenplay offers little for them in terms of distinctive characterization. With no ghost-buster or psychic expert on hand, the explanatory dialogue is given mostly to Nicolai, although how he has figured out the truth is never clear. The script deliberately leaves details vague, offering little evidence to clarify what is happening – or even whether Nicolai is telling the truth – keeping audiences in a state of perpetual uncertainty that is supposed to pass for intriguing mystery. Final revelation and resolution of the story is trite and predictably gloomy, offering little catharsis.
Highlight of the film is the scare sequences, particularly when Marie and Nicolai haunt themselves. Ghosts are visualized with actors in make-up, rather than computer-generated effects, creating a realistic, almost tactile feel to the apparitions, whose hunched shoulders and slow, shuffling gate almost suggest zombies. Blank-eyed expressionless faces generate a real thrill, better than the more obvious snarling evil so often on view. Other atmospheric bits also register nicely, such as the beam of a flashlight that briefly illuminates objects from the past that are no longer actually in a room Marie is investigating.
In the end, THE ABANDONED feels less like a complete movie than a collection of good ideas for horror scenes. Attempt to wrap them up in a scenario about bringing events “full circle” is at best partially successful, and the film’s conclusion abandons atmosphere and mood, resorting to silly gore (taking a cue from HANNIBAL, one character is eaten by pigs). On the plus side, the isolated location and limited characters create an effective sense of suspense. With a better screenplay, these elements could have added up to something wonderful.


THE ABANDONED was first released as one of the “8 Films to Die For” in the After Dark Horror Fest of November 2006. THE ABANDONED was selected as the “audience favorite” and granted a separate theatrical release before the package of 8 movies reached home video. Other After Dark titles include PENNY DREADFUL, UNREST, REINCARNATION, THE GRAVEDANCERS, and THE HAMILTONS.
THE ABANDONED (2006). Directed by Nacho Cerda. Written by Nacho Cerda, Karim Hussain. Cast: Anastasia Hille, Karel Roden, Valentin Ganev, Carlos Reig

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