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Absence Movie Review


It's been about 14 years since "The Blair Witch Project" phenomenon. It provoked reactions that ranged from masterpiece to garbage. Personally, I liked it. Made on-the-cheap with handheld jerky camera movements, it fostered a goodly amount of terror in the audience by depending on a formula based on impending doom rather than throwing the scary stuff in your face. It's a good way of scaring an audience.

Jimmy Loweree's "Absence" uses that same formula. It's got the jerky camera movements. It's a low-cost production, and it depends on us being afraid without offering up obvious reasons for our being scared, but it falls short of the film it is either consciously or unconsciously imitating. The fear in both revolves around whether it is human or supernatural that we should be scared of.

Liz (Erin Wray) is pregnant and the day of birth is close. Somehow, she wakes up and she is no longer pregnant and there is no evidence as to what has happened. She is in the hospital and is being questioned by the police, with the implication being that she self-aborted or committed perhaps an even worse crime. In the middle of this a message flashes across the screen telling us that there are lots of evil people out there who are committing forced Caesarean sections on unsuspecting women in order to steal their babies. Then we are back to the story. I guess we are supposed to entertain that this is what has just happened. It is odd to throw it out there when we know that that couldn't have been what happened because in those cases the woman is left for dead.

Liz's husband, Rick (Eric Matheny), is justifiably angry at the cops barely-veiled innuendo that they have killed their baby. Liz's brother, Evan (Ryan Smale), is a snarky, incredibly unlikeable man who for some bizarre reason is dedicated to making a documentary of Liz and Rick's ordeal after they go back to their cabin in the woods. Why they don't immediate smash his camera into a million pieces makes no sense unless you believe that perhaps they are all aliens.

The rest of "Absence" is a bunch of misdirection and confusing moments where someone or something is taunting all of them. Is it local kids, Yeti, aliens, Adam Sandler goofing around, or something so horrific that we cannot even conceive of it?

All of our endless waiting for a kernel of a hint finally is shown to us in the final scene and even then we are not exactly positive what is going on. Sadly, by then we could not care less. We are just thankful that it is over. Yes, I confess that there are a couple of scenes that generate real tension, but when it is overwhelmed by nothingness, the absence of it all is overpowering.

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