The Horror Honeys: Tunnel of Bug...

Tunnel of Bug...

A Supernatural Honey Review by Suzanne

Absentia (2011)

Well, Halloween is in the past and now it’s time for us to hold on tightly to those lovely memories, while we eagerly anticipate next fall. The plethora of new horror that we were graced with in October has given way to Christmas commercials and trailers for animated films for the holidays. In other words, I’m back to combing through the archives for supernatural films I’ve been avoiding.

I watched Absentia based on a recommendation, not realizing it was the same team that created Oculus, which may have deterred me, thus using the 87 minutes I spent on this doing something far more productive, like clipping my cats’ nails. 

Seven years after her husband Daniel disappeared, Tricia (Courtney Bell) has finally decided to declare him ‘dead in absentia’ so she can move on with her life. Pregnant and unable to cope, she has her sister Callie (Katie Parker) move in with her. Callie has had a troubled past, including addiction, but is determined to stay strong for her sister. When Callie encounters a mysterious man in a tunnel, she decides it’s somehow linked to Daniel’s disappearance as well as the disappearance of others throughout previous decades.

I appreciate the originality of the story and what writer/director Mike Flanagan was able to accomplish on such a small budget. His efforts on this film were obviously enough for him to get Oculus backed by a studio and, while I didn’t love that film, Flanagan isn’t a hack. He proves he is able to bring something more to the horror table than shadow demons and jump scares.

Now, I love a slow burn with a big payoff, but, unfortunately, Absentia is slow with no real payoff. The story is loosely based on the idea of the troll under bridge, except we never really discover what lurks in the tunnel, how or where it takes people, nor do we know how they sometimes escape and, of course, they do escape at just the right moments.

With the death certificate issued, Tricia decides to step out with her beau for an “official” date. Her boyfriend and baby daddy just happens to be one of the detectives who worked on her husband’s missing persons case. As they stroll down the street Daniel reappears, naturally, in the same clothes he went missing in. Physically and emotionally traumatized, he is reluctant to share any information with the police or his wife, who is now on the verge of a breakdown.

The one person Daniel does talk to is Callie, who becomes so engrossed in finding out what is going on, she relapses. This ensures both her sister and the police don’t believe a word she says until Daniel disappears again. When Tricia finally begins to understand, it’s a little too late.

Katie Parker does a decent job as Callie, but the rest of the performances, by producers/actors, are lukewarm and robotic, making and already slow film seem slower. The perpetually spectacular Doug Jones makes an appearance as Walter Lambert, the man Callie finds in the tunnel. I’m guessing this was a favor to the director because he’s sorely underused and would have made a much more compelling Daniel than Morgan Peter Brown.

This film is nearly void of special effects, which is a credit and also a hindrance. It’s always refreshing to see a film use the script and location to create atmosphere, but we’re talking about a monster, central to the story, that goes virtually unseen except a few quick glimpses. It appeared to be some kind of bug, an ancient demon centipede maybe? I don’t know what the fuck it was, but I didn’t see enough of it for it to be remotely frightening.

Absentia isn’t bad: it just isn’t fulfilling, at least not for me. It’s a great idea not fully fleshed out. I’m totally fine with a little ambiguity because it can sometimes heighten the experience, but there is simply too much left open to interpretation here. 

The verdict: 2.5 tunnel dwellers out of 5