Wednesday, May 16, 2007


Nacho Cerda’s The Abandoned is the third After Dark Horrorfest film I’ve seen (the others, Takashi Shimizu’s Rinne and J.S. Cardone’s Wicked Little Things; review in Archive: March 2007), and it’s the best one so far.

We open in Russia, in 1966, where two infants are found in a truck with a dead woman at the wheel.
Flash forward four decades later, and Marie (Anastasia Hille, seen in Po-Chih Leong’s excellent The Wisdom of Crocodiles and Nick Hamm’s The Hole), an American film producer, is contacted by a Mr. Misharin (Valentin Ganev), a solicitor who tells her that she has come into the ownership of a farm in Russia. As it turns out, Marie is adopted, and the farm belonged to her birth mother, who apparently died shortly after she was born.
No sooner does Marie arrive at the isolated farm (completely surrounded by a river; and she can’t swim!), when strange phenomena begin to take place, including Marie seeing her doppelganger, soaking wet, eyes rolled up to their whites.
Shortly thereafter, she meets Nicolai (Karel Roden, recognizable to genre fans from Guillermo Del Toro films Blade II and Hellboy, as well as Paul Hunter’s Bullet-Proof Monk), who may have a connection with Marie, and who is also seeing his own doppelganger, bearing the bloody wounds of what seems to have been an animal attack.
And as the doppelganger sightings become more frequent and violent, neither Marie nor Nicolai can seem to leave the farm…

It’s an interesting premise Cerda brings to our door in The Abandoned. Utilizing a key horror element familiar to fans of the genre (the decrepit house out in the middle of nowhere), Cerda introduces the mystery of the doppelgangers and as a result, gives us a film that actually feels original.
At any rate, it’s certainly not cut from the cloth (sometimes all-too-wearing-thin these days) of the average modern-day horror film, with the long-haired spectre of Asian horror cinema casting its deep shadow over the ghostly proceedings.
Cerda does not even depend on the usual scare tactics of the sudden tandem shock of movement, music, and sound, to get to his audience. (No jumping, yowling cats here.)
Instead, it’s all about the situation and the predicament, with an almost constant sonic layer of voices and whispers, as Marie and Nicolai try to solve the mystery of the farm and their ghastly counterparts.

From Filmax, the production company responsible for much of the excellent non-Asian, non-Hollywood horror films in the recent past (most notably the films of Jaume Balaguero), The Abandoned is largely effective and has an interesting (if downbeat) pay-off. It’s only perhaps in the maintenance of the tension that the film suffers somewhat. The Abandoned isn’t as taut as it might have been, and whether or not you ultimately enjoy this film will be based largely on your patience and ability to lose yourself in a movie.

Having said that, the film does boast Xavi Gimenez as its cinematographer. Gimenez (go-to cinematographer for Jaume Balaguero) has a great eye and has made films like Balaguero’s Los Sin Nombre and Darkness, and Brad Anderson’s El Maquinista visually arresting cinematic experiences. (Interestingly enough, editor Luis De La Madrid, often paired with Gimenez to brilliant effect, is thanked by Cerda in the end credits.)

Ultimately, if you’re a fan of the horror genre, you owe it to yourself to see The Abandoned, if only because it’s quite unlike the typical horror film of the moment. Whether you’ll like it or not will be based on your personal tastes, but at the very least, you can say you had a bite.

Parting shot: The Abandoned is the only one of the eight After Dark Horrorfest films that actually had a theatrical release in the U.S. (Unlike the others, which, following the Horrorfest, were released straight to DVD.)

Parting shot 2: Cerda directed the documentary The Machinist: Breaking the Rules, found on the El Maquinista DVD.

(The Abandoned OS courtesy of

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