It’s one of those horror movies that confuses being loud with being scary.
Julia (Louisa Krause) is a young woman who finds herself in a rough patch, to say the least. She takes anti-psychotic medications to treat her psychosis and has a little girl at home who is at risk of being taken away by child services. Despite all this, you get the feeling that Julia is a good-natured girl who has been dealt a rough hand. Julia is desperate to find some stability and prove that she can live a normal, healthy life. In what seems to be her last chance to redeem herself, she takes a new job doing security work in an abandoned apartment complex. On her first shift, she meets misogynistic co-worker Cooper (The Lost Boys’ Jason Patric) who is a good decade or two her senior. He seems to always have a beer within arm’s reach and an insult to throw Julia’s way. Cooper is wheelchair-bound, which results in him watching the computer monitors while Julia roams the hallways for trespassers and thieves. Not even Cooper’s bad attitude can stop Julia from trying her best to make this job work. As the night grows long, Julia starts to sense a presence lurking in the darkest parts of the building. As she explores the building’s history and its haunts, Julia begins to lose her grip on reality.
The Abandoned is Eytan Rockaway’s first feature, and with a script written by another first-timer, Ido Fluk. Although the film isn’t outright bad, there are quite a few glaring weaknesses that make this film hard to recommend. The script is by far the worst part of this feature. There are many unnatural conversations that are heavy on clunky expository dialogue. For example, within the first ten minutes of the film, Julia meets the owner of the building for an incredibly boring conversation. They walk around the complex as the owner says dumb things to set up for easy scares like, “some of the lights are on timers so they turn off to save on power…it can make some people uneasy”. He also gives a foreboding warning about not allowing for any squatters, which makes it quite obvious that Julia will do just that later on.
It was very exciting to see character actor Mark Margolis play the man Julia lets in. Even if you aren’t familiar with Margolis, you’re likely to know his face. He pops up in everything from Darren Aronofsky’s films to television shows like Breaking Bad or Gotham. Even when the shows are of poor quality (like Gotham), he always manages to be a positive note. Here he has great presence but is underutilized as a plot device to interact with the haunts early on so our two main actors don’t have to. Elsewhere, Cooper’s casual misogyny feels completely outdated. His lecherous stares combined with near-constant bullying of Julia should make him flat-out unlikable. Somehow Jason Patric rises to the challenge of making this character charming. He turns in the film’s best performance as Cooper and has very good chemistry with Louisa Krause. Not only does he bring charm to the role but also depth, as his facial expression in certain scenes brings a complexity to Cooper that made me grow soft on him. Louisa Krause also brings some personality to otherwise flat characterization. It hasn’t come up yet in this review, but Julia has the dopey nickname of Streak. Krause does such a good job at bringing a silent strength to her character that her performance justifies her having a tough-girl nickname even if the script doesn’t. Together Jason Patric and Louisa Krause have strong chemistry, and their performances are easily the best thing the film as to offer.
The worst thing other than the script is the scare techniques the film employs. It’s one of those horror movies that confuses being loud with being scary. There are lots of cliché moments where shadowy figures run across the frame to let you know something bad is about to happen. It’s all cheap and uninspired as far as the frights go. Perhaps the only thing more offensive to me than “loud” scary movies are ones with a big dumb twist; The Abandoned offers both. The twist is such an overplayed one that feels shoehorned in. Worst of all, it doesn’t exactly fit easily into the first two-thirds of the film. (Obviously, I can’t go into the specifics without spoiling it.) Know that The Abandoned is not a very inspired film, but features strong performances tied down by weak material. If you want to watch a horror film where a strong female character and an older guy work a graveyard shift together in a haunted building, you’re better off watching Ti West’s The Innkeepers. It has far more personality and wit than any moment The Abandoned has to offer. | Cait Lore