Sometimes, footage isn’t so much found as it is stumbled over…
Rick and Liz awake one morning to discover that the baby Liz has been pregnant with for seven months, has just disappeared, and no doctors are able to offer any valid explanation. So, the couple, along with video camera toting brother, Evan, head off to a, you guessed it, cabin in the woods to figure things out. Authorities and townsfolk suspect the worst of Rick and Liz, but is it possible that sources from another world are involved? Let me consult the tape.
While the horror movie market has certainly been flooded with found footage films (possibly second only to zombies), a good one can really provide some solid scares. If done right, they make you feel as if you are witnessing something as it actually happened, thereby upping the ante on the consequences that the characters face. Unfortunately, this one is not particularly successful. After an opening 15 minutes or so that is filmed with an almost unbearably shaky cam, we are treated to almost an hour of just not a whole lot happening of any consequence (with one minor exception that I will discuss below). A nice slow build-up can also be a recipe for some genuine scares, but they must actually be building up to something. The only real excitement in this film is saved for the final moments, which turns out to not be very exciting at all.
There are a couple of positives that I should point out. Firstly, the acting by the lead couple (Erin Way & Eric Matheny) is fairly well done. One of the acting requirements of a found footage film over most other movies, is the heightened emphasis on needing the dialogue to sound unscripted. In this, they are fairly successful. On the other hand, they are paired with Evan (Ryan Smale), an incredibly un-likeable presence, who might just be the most obtrusive “camera man” to ever feature in one of these films. That he continues to film at certain times, and that Rick and Liz allow him to do so, baffles a bit.
The other fairly well done aspect of this movie is the exception that I alluded to previously, regarding lack of anything important happening during the first hour and change. What the filmmakers do right during the first hour, is place a few subtle allusions to the events of the final act. They go by in an instant, and I had to think back upon them in order to place them once I had seen the finale, but I’m sure that a second viewing would reward a viewer seeing these clever touches with the ending in mind. The problem with that is that not much else in the film would warrant a second viewing.
Jason’s Final Thoughts
There’s always a risk when using a title that just begs critics to use it against the film. Presumably the word Absence is a reference to occurrences in the film, so in an effort to keep my originality intact, I will not use it to describe this film’s lack of pacing, quality of script, or scares. There is an intriguing premise buried somewhere in this story, but, this time, it’s just not realized.
Review by Jason Howard, special to Influx Magazine
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