Do a Shot: for every jump scare.
Take a Drink: any time you hear whispering.
Take a Drink: whenever you’re not sure whether something is real or imagined.
By: Hawk Ripjaw (Two Beers) –
Young single mother Streak (Louisa Krause), psychologically troubled and dependent on pills to stay afloat, has taken a job as a security guard in a sort of abandoned apartment complex. Her only companion for the night is an extremely skeevy guard named Cooper (Jason Patric), who, in only his second spoken dialogue to her, casually offers to let her change into her guard uniform in the same room he is in. In the third, he monologues about how much he hates having “local college brats” brought in to help him. He’s an alcoholic and rough around the edges, but the pair start to develop some sort of kinship as the night goes on. Later, a vagrant (Mark Margolis) is knocking at the door, begging to be let in. Cooper is adamant about refusing him, but Streak’s maternal instincts win over and she opens the door. As the night goes on, Cooper and Streak start to bond a bit more, and with each patrol Streak takes, things get a little creepier as she starts to discover what happened in the facility years ago.
From the moment Streak sets foot into the building, the movie builds a terrific sense of atmosphere and dread. Everything feels just a little bit off here, and the cinematography and sound design work well to get under the skin. Most of the frightening scenes here are things that have been done before, but nearly all of them are executed well and don’t feel stale.
Some of the film’s best moments are where it blurs the lines between psyche and reality. By establishing early on that Streak is a psychologically troubled woman, and evenly introducing bumps in the night and a possibly tangible evil presence, the film makes it unclear whether what is going on is just part of Streak’s mind, or something actually sinister going on in the building.
For the most part, it’s just Streak and Cooper in the movie, and for such an intimate setting, effective chemistry is key. Krause and Patric work together extremely well, and Krause is one of the more effective horror actresses in recent memory, selling her fear so effectively it actually rubs off.
The ending was unimaginative and felt like the writers weren’t sure what to do. Not only does it feel like it lacks payoff in regard to the rest of the film, but it doesn’t even make sense in relation to certain scenes and almost negates the rest of the film. The final reveal isn’t really scary, either. It’s just a generic bait-and-switch that does nothing to service the movie that comes before it.
Ultimately, The Abandoned is an effectively spooky, entertaining movie. Not a great deal actually happens with the plot, but as a self-contained, minimalist horror film, it works. It’s not intent on doing a whole lot, and focuses instead on being lean and uncomplicated. The fact that such a well-made film ending with such a clunky ending really is disappointing, but it’s certainly not a dealbreaker. As indie horror goes, this is one of the good ones.