Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Absence: More Found Footage of a Cabin in the Woods

It is always weird to watch horror movies that kind of, sort of carry pro-life implications.  After all, it is never the “fetus” terrorized pregnant mothers worry about, but their “baby.”  Poor Liz has already lost her daughter and it wasn’t the dingos that took her. Somehow her seven month old baby just vanished from within.  Unfortunately, the unknown responsible party probably still has her on their radar in Jimmy Loweree’s Absence (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Not only have Liz and Rick lost their unborn child, everyone in their hometown assumes she is just an attention seeking Susan Smith.  To get away from the pressure, they head to Rick’s isolated family cabin in the mountains.  For reasons that escape Rick, they also take along Liz’s immature brother Evan.  He intends to document their getaway for his film school thesis, hoping it will show the world who the real Liz really is.  Okay, good plan.  That hardly sounds exploitative at all.  Thanks to Evan, it is time once again for viewers to get their found footage on.

Of course, the audience quickly suspects there is something not quite right going on in the background.  However, Evan is real slow on the up-take and evidently never reviews the footage he shoots while in the process of passing out.

To their credit, Loweree and co-writer Jake Moreno really try to take the time to establish their characters, unlike most found footage formula grinders.  It is a nice instinct, but they overcompensate.  As a result, Absence feels like it is about 92% percent set-up and 8% getting down to genre business.

Eric Matheny brings a strong presence to the film as the protective Rick and he develops a decent screen rapport with Erin Way’s convincingly fragile Liz.  However, as Evan, Ryan Smale cranks up the shtick to the point viewers will become nostalgic for Jaime Kennedy in the Scream franchise.

Ultimately, Absence’s restraint becomes too much of a good thing.  The fact that Evan is our primary POV figure also works against the film.  At least Loweree sets the scene nicely and never cops out with cheap gotcha scares.  There is a cookout scene too, so maybe that makes it fit diehard horror fans’ 4th of July weekend plans.  Rather middling overall but competently produced, Absence opens this Friday (7/5) in New York at the Quad Cinema and at the Gateway Film Center in Columbus.