I had a million of them. You know, he was an NSA agent, couldn’t tell me his living to keep me safe. But then his cover got blown and so he had to go underground…
Absentia is a low budget horror movie. Yeah, the effects weren’t great and the camera work was a bit shaky sometimes, but all in all, I enjoyed it.
Tricia is 7 months pregnant and her husband Daniel has been missing for 7 years. She lives in the same house, situated near a pedestrian tunnel. There are an awful lot of missing pet and people posters around her neighbourhood, something you notice peripherally. Her wild younger sister, Callie, comes to stay with her while Tricia is getting the paperwork finalized to have Daniel declared legally dead in absentia. Tricia begins to have some creepy hallucinations of Daniel. And I mean creepy. There is the first scene when Daniel appears, Tricia wakes up randomly in the night and follows a disheveled looking man down the stairs to the living room. His back is to her. She reaches out to touch him, and looks up at his face. It’s Daniel, a zombie looking Daniel. She screams and backs away, only to be grabbed from behind by dead Daniel. Tricia wakes up. She begins to see what looks like a dead Daniel randomly, sometimes even just his head. He seems to be screaming silently at her or whispering things I can’t quite make out, but sound like ‘I won’t let you have this baby’ or ‘You’re going to die today.’ Once, in what she thinks is a dream, he holds her down in bed and thrusts in arm through her stomach. Tricia’s therapist thinks that she feels guilty for declaring him legally dead, and, subconsciously, she’s having trouble letting go of Daniel, so she’ s conjuring up lucid dreams of him. The movie never outright names the father of Tricia’s baby (clearly NOT Daniel), but it’s heavily implied to be the detective, Ryan, assigned to Daniel’s missing persons case.
While Tricia is having her mental problems, Callie turns out to be a maybe reformed drug addict. Callie goes jogging through the pedestrian tunnel when she encounters an emaciated and ragged man lying on the ground in the tunnel (Doug Jones cameo, he’s awesome!). He whispers ‘You can see me!’ and something about ‘it’ sleeping and other garbled nonsense. As a former junkie, Callie feels sorry for him and promises to come back with food. He yells at her that his name is Walter, and to please tell his son Jamie… But Callie runs off before she can hear the message. That night, Callie brings some food to the tunnel for Walter, but he’s not there. She leaves the food at the entrance and leaves. The next day, Callie finds a bunch of assorted keys and metal things on her doorstep. She gathers them up and places them at the pedestrian tunnel entrance. A strange looking man comes by and tells her not to leave those there. He himself deposits a black garbage at the entrance and leaves. That night, Callie finds the metal things in her bed.
Meanwhile, having finally received the death certificate for Daniel, Tricia, with Callie’s full support, decides to move on with her life. She finds a new apartment and asks Ryan out on a date.
But that night, Daniel returns. The flesh and blood Daniel. The recently declared dead Daniel staggers up to his house from the direction of the tunnel, still wearing the same clothes as when he disappeared and even with his wallet in his pocket. The police try to interrogate him but Daniel is confused and nonsensical. He’s been deprived of sunlight for a while and had recently been fed as there are animal bones in his stomach, but the police, Ryan in particular, are highly suspicious. When the sisters take Daniel back to the house, he gets out of the car and notices the tunnel. He immediately wets himself in fear. Ryan calls Tricia and asks to talk to her that night. Tricia goes out to his car to talk to him, and leaves Daniel and Callie together in the house. Callie has taken some sort of drugs (secretly) and is high. When she sort of comes to, she sees Daniel sitting on her bed, reading the Three Billy Goats Gruff. He looks terrified and whispers ‘That’s not what it looks like though…’ and something about ‘them’ being more insect like and scaly. He can also hear them in the bedroom wall. Suddenly, they hear a strange crackly noise and a black something with lots of legs scuttles past the bedroom door.
Like I said, it’s an enjoyable movie. Short, at about an hour and a half, but it ended when it should have. Start was a bit slow, but not too noticeable. I really liked the interactions between the sisters. The slightly awkward atmosphere at the beginning was perfect, exactly what would happen between 2 siblings that haven’t seen each other in a while and are not sure what to talk about or which giant elephant in the room to confront first (Tricia’s pregnancy or Callie’s supposed clean slate). They play off each other very well and I think the actors were good and believable. Perhaps the detective Ryan could have been a bit more, I don’t know, INVOLVED, but everyone was good. There are also some good jump scenes with zombie Daniel. I really liked the scenes where the characters are musing about ‘what could have happeneds.’ Like when Tricia is musing about what really happened to Daniel (secret NSA agent, amnesia, etc) and there’s quick cut outs to the possible scenario. The ones at the end are really good, an attempt by people to rationalize and fit into reality what seems impossible. It didn’t happen often, but sometimes the camera shakes or sort of slides inexplicably off to the side before righting itself. And there’s something about the lighting that just feels off.
Spoilers: yeah, the zombie Daniel was all in Tricia’s mind. But what she didn’t know, and Callie figures out, is that there is some kind of parallel underworld dimension under their feet where insectoid beings kidnap humans for labour and spit them out in the tunnel when the slaves are used up. There appear to be big insects and little insects. The big ones get to go grab people while the little ones are the slave masters. If you listen carefully and are permitted by the insects, you can hear the screams of their slaves in the tunnel. I think the guy with the black bags was attempting to keep his father (insect slave) fed and maybe work his way up to a trade. They definitely work on a barter system. Callie’s attempt to sacrifice herself in trade for the kidnapped Tricia is heartbreaking, because she knows what she’s in for and has no idea if it’ll work, but she tries anyways. And she doesn’t get what she expected in return, but the creatures still want the bargain to be upheld. Even insect beings need everything spelled out in explicit detail in a bargain. Also, I think what happens is that they take it back when she tries to bolt.
Good overall and I wish it got more coverage than it did. I only stumbled upon it through a trailer for something else on YouTube. I kinda want to see the insect underworld, but that definitely wasn’t in their budget. And I knew I hated underground pedestrian bridges for a reason.
3 toffee squares out of 5.