“Abandon all hope, ye who enter here!” You may want to take Dante’s advice on this one. One of the nice things about doing our 31 Days of Halloween features, is that I get to go through my backlog and pick out some horror that I want to share. Many horror sites, for the month of October, focus on the big names in horror; so I wanted to review a few different films and see if I can find any gems out of my collection. The Abandoned is an IFC Midnight film I snagged on release a couple months ago and have been meaning to watch. While I would like to say it is worth your time, my score underneath may belie that very quickly.
It seems like too many recent horror films nowadays have great themes and atmosphere, only to completely throw the ground work in the trash after 30 minutes. The Abandoned starts off rather creepy and has a nice atmosphere with a few decent jump scares thrown in. Yet, it crashes rather quickly at the halfway point.
The Movie Itself (2.5/5)
We begin our saga with Streak (yep, that’s what she likes to be called) as she begins a new job as a security guard. We learn she is a single mother and that she is in jeopardy of losing her daughter. To keep her, she must get her act together. Her boss gives her a tour of an enormous complex in New York City that is now abandoned. Apparently, they ran out of money when building it many decades ago and it serves no function. The building is very opulent: ornate carvings and woodwork are everywhere and most of the floor looks to be marble, yet most of the rooms are empty. We meet her partner Cooper (Jason Patric) and learn about their main job: one person patrols the grounds every two hours while one watches the security screens.
Streak doesn’t even make it to the second round before she changes things up. As she patrols, she starts to hear voices and seeing things out of the corner of her eye. I’ll assume you like scary scenarios and tension, since you are reading this review. The first thirty to forty minutes (or so) are superb in that regard. The setting is beautiful and as she explores deeper into the building it only gets more creepy while the tension increases. One of the most important rules is to not let people in the building, so when Streak lets in a homeless man in from the cold, Cooper understandably gets upset and worried about losing his job.
On her second patrol, presumably just a couple hours into her shift, she breaks open a door that she was told not to go into. Inside, she discovers some grisly findings (sound familiar?) and no sooner than she does, the homeless man (Mark Margolis, Breaking Bad) follows her. Yes, in the 30 story building he decides to go down into the basement. Even better , is somehow he knows the right way through the winding paths.
Like typical horror films the characters do amazing, uncharacteristic, and/or ignorant things to further the plot. This happens in most horror films, so I’m not dinging off any points off The Abandoned for it. Where the film loses its way, is everything after this point. The answers to the paranormal are very common place and predictable. The problem becomes, that while they try to explain everything to the viewer, everything shown in the last half of the film is almost laughable. First of all, the scares become nonexistent. The tension vanishes almost completely as we get many funny predicaments. Finally, the ending is so absurd, it honestly insults the viewer for spending the time to watch this. I get what the writers and director were going for, I just don’t understand how they thought the ending was a good idea.
I really wanted to be scared with this film. The beginning really felt like something different and creepy and I was extremely let down. Then again, I was laughing by the end, but I don’t think that was the goal with The Abandoned.
Visuals/Picture Quality (3/5)
The picture quality on The Abandoned jumps all over the place. If it is well lit, it looks solid and has a lot of nice detail. If it is dark, as is the case with much of the film, we have some issues. Most pronounced are the scenes with Streak alone in the basement with just a flashlight. Many of the blacks just look grey and washed out; as a result you lose a lot of detail wherever the flashlight isn’t pointed. None of it is unwatchable; however, it is what I have come to expect from a lower budget indie horror film.
Score/Audio Quality (4.5/5)
The score is easily the best part of the film. The same can be said for the effects. Most noteworthy are the whispers and voices as Streak patrols the hall for the first time. The rear speakers seem to come alive. It appears to be a standard go to in these types of films, but if that part works why knock it? They are much more effective here than in Satanic, which I just reviewed, where the voices were just placed sporadically and never built upon the tension or suspense.
Special Features (1.5/5)
Deleted Scenes (02:06) Nothing of added value
Alternate Ending (03:24) This ending has the same basic premise as the original with it still being absurd. However, this actually makes slightly less plot holes and sticks to one issue instead of multiple. Still terrible though.
- Cabin Fever
- The Abandoned
- Disc Art
- Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
- English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
- English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Runtime 87 Mins
The Abandoned Overall (2/5)
I actually own quite a few of the IFC Midnight and Scream Factory collaborations. Consequently, this maybe be one of the worst. Aside from the movie falling apart halfway through, there are no redeeming special features and the packaging is as bare-bones as it gets. Some of the ones in my collection are a much worse movie than this, but still have slipcovers and reversible art, with much more care paid to detail. If you enjoy supernatural horrors and can get this for a few bucks, it may be worth your time. For those that want to take the risk anyway, you can grab at Amazon. Normally, I also put a trailer at the end, but it has so many scenes from the last 30 minutes I felt it would detract if still interested.