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  • Rev Horror

The Abandoned

Dir. Nacho Cerdá (2006)

An adopted woman returns to her home country where she must confront the secrets of her past.

I'm a big fan of Nacho Cerdá, a Spanish filmmaker who is mostly known for his extreme trio of shorts The Awakening/Aftermath/Genesis. His artistic flair is incredible, and he's got an eye for details and the aesthetics behind horrifying imagery that I hate most genre audiences have never experienced. The Abandoned is a film that I was familiar with, largely from the After Dark Horrorfest, but I had zero idea that Cerdá was behind the camera, so when I found out that it was getting a blu-ray release from Unearthed Films, I knew that I had to check it out. While The Abandoned doesn't contain as much of the outwardly imaginative style that his shorts do, it's still a wonderfully ethereal film with a deliriously creepy ambience that's well worth a look.

Marie (Anastasia Hille) has returned to her home country of Russia after inheriting a house from her long lost relatives. She was adopted as a child after she was found, along with her twin brother, in an broken-down car with her wounded mother, and she has lived in the US ever since. After arriving at the abandoned house, she meets someone claiming to be her brother Nicolai (Karel Roden), and the pair begin to see ghostly apparitions that appear to be zombified versions of themselves. Par for the course, they are unable to leave the residence, and must fight for survival against these otherworldly creatures.

The Abandoned does a terrific job of presenting the haunted house aesthetic, with a creepy-as-hell dilapidated house as the backdrop of the majority of the film. Likewise, the ghastly phantoms that are haunting Marie and Nicolai are done exceptionally well, one of the OG white-eyed ghosts in horror that have become all the rage whenever a filmmaker wants to show that someone isn't "right." Cerda has crafted a slow-burn horror that is legitimately scary at times, utilizing an eerie location and fantastic set design to deliver an ominous film where everything on-screen feels like its out to get you.

It's an old-fashioned ghost story with a modern style, an early example of the modern trope of a "villain" who appears to be the mirror of the antagonist and a play on the ancient legend of the doppelganger. What happens to one happens to the other, a commentary on the inevitability of fate and the reality that every action just carries you further down the path of eventually becoming your future self. The white-eyed ghosts are sufficiently creepy, and though the movie takes a while to get going (and takes a while to get there once it does), every piece of the film is leading to the next, just as Marie's journey is doing the same. There's something deliciously sinister about knowing that you can't defeat your tormentor without also defeating yourself, a fatalistic scenario where there can be ultimately no escape.

The film isn't perfect, to be sure. It is exceptionally slow, as ghost stories tend to be, and while the setup of the film isn't all that long compared to the runtime of the rest, it feels like its dragging itself through the plot as it drags along the viewer. It's also much less extreme than most films in the Unearthed catalogue, with a few decent and well-done scenes of gore but very little to actually classify it as "extreme." The dark and green-tinted cinematography may turn off some viewers, especially because that is seemingly the norm with these types of films today. Cerdá's attempt at the style is from 18 years ago, however, and as such must be seen as a progenitor rather than a copycat.

By and large, The Abandoned is a ghost story, but a good one. As someone who is not big into that genre of horror, it's definitely not one that I would find myself watching again and again, but it's a good enough film that I'm glad to have seen it. I'm a huge fan of what Unearthed Films does, and I'm glad to have been able to check out another of their lineup and recommend it to the horror faithful. While there have been many films like this one in recent years, this is one of the first and a really good effort at that. I definitely recommend checking it out.

Who this movie is for: Foreign horror fans, Ghost movie lovers, Mirror enthusiasts

Bottom line: The Abandoned is a good and sufficiently creepy ghost story that deals with the inevitability of fate and the echoes of familial tragedy. Director Nacho Cerdá is a fantastic talent, and it's a shame we haven't seen more from him over his career. While this isn't the first film that I would've chosen for Unearthed Films' filmography, I'm glad that they are giving it a loving release because it's a damn fine film, and I will gladly preach their horror offerings from the mountaintop any chance I get. Grab your copy at Unearthed Films and help to support one of the biggest and most important horror distribution companies in the business.

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