In this day and age of studio flicks that overwhelmingly suck and indie films with stars that bring in the production buck, you have to applaud those who simply pick up a camera and shoot a film for love. Back in the days of Kevin Smith with "Clerks" and Robert Rodriguez with "El Mariachi" it may have been the norm, but today it’s about as rare as a summer flick that lingers. Which is what is both good and bad about the new guerrilla-style horror film "Absence." There’s certainly a desire to cash in on the found footage craze, but within the familiar framework lies some engaging and eerie work that reminds us of what a good psychological side can do.
Liz and her husband Rick are going through some strange stuff. Seems one morning Liz woke up and found that her near-to-term pregnancy gone. Disappeared. The doctors are totally baffled. The police are suspicious. And the couple is going through both grief and total confusion over the loss of their unborn child. So they decide to head out to a trip to the mountains to escape the circus and they bring along Liz’s quirky brother Evan. Evan decides to help in his own way by making a candid documentary on the ordeal in the hopes of both shedding light and bringing closure to all involved.
That’s how I would have loved "Absence" to unspool its freaky fable – with the firm footing of a flick that wants to be the "Repulsion" of fetal abduction stories. And the scenes and character work associated with that aspect here are top notch. The mood and tone is superbly somber, the mystery of the subject unnerving and the performances, especially by grieving mom Erin Way, project the loss, sadness and total despair of the whole situation believably. Unfortunately someone told Director Jimmy Loweree that you have to have silly scares no matter what and there’s a whole blue light, shaky camera, outer-world sub-plot that’s wedged in here for no good reason. Bringing down a notch both the power and skilled veneer of the films’ great work, the need to give an audience answers and eye candy sadly overcomes what frankly could have been a film in contention for my top ten list for 2013. Its almost like adding dirt sprinkles onto a sundae that’s been perfectly put together – it doesn’t need it.
It’s rare for not only a first person camera movie, but also an indie flick made for no money to portray something that actually moves an audience in a credible way. "Absence" should have trusted that the unknown factor in its story and powerful performances within would be enough to make an impression on even the most jaded of the genre. Anyone can fill a frame with forgettable flash – terrors of the mind make movie memories that last a lifetime.
"ABSENCE" OPENS IN SELECT THEATERS ON JULY 5 FROM CINEDIGM ENTERTAINMENT GROUP