Abandoned, The (US - DVD R1)
Gabe tries in vain to find a new way to articulate the emotion behind 'meh'...
An American woman searching for her Russian birth parents learns she has inherited a house in the middle of a remote in the Motherland. Abandoned and uninhabited for forty years, it stands in total disrepair and neglect. When she finally arrives at the house she meets a mysterious and well-armed man claiming to be her twin brother. Together they discover the house's dangerous secrets and end up uncovering their own past.
Nacho Cerdà doesn't seem to be much of a go-getter. His first non-student film, a short called Aftermath, showed true talent, and a massive improvement over his student short. The film is truly and deeply disturbing far beyond its premise, which would most likely be simply icky and gross if made in by lesser hands. That was 1994. It would take another four years before Cerda would make another film, which was, again, a short called Genesis. It was another improvement. From what I can tell looking at imdb.com this promising, once young filmmaker didn't try his hand at a feature length film until 2006, when he made The Abandoned. The film was dropped in select theatres as part of After Dark and Lionsgate's ‘Horrorfest’ series last year. After being voted best of show, it was given a second chance releases on its own.
The After Dark Horrorfest was basically a collection of very average, medium budgeted horror films that probably would've gone straight to video had it not been some executive's bright idea to siphon a little cash from loyal horror geeks. I had assumed that The Abandoned was something special when it was given its second chance, and effectively set myself up for more disappointment. This was before I realized Cerda had directed the film, which simply raised my expectations a bit higher. Despite good performances and textural visuals, the film isn't even the best in this sadly average lot.
The film has an atmosphere, but it's the same atmosphere of every decent looking horror film of the last fifteen years, including discarded dolls, dirty, mouldy, broken windows, and a pervasive dampness. The scares are almost solely of the cheap variety, depending too much on minute after numbing minute of set up followed by some kind of very loud noise. Frankly I expected much more from a man that made something beautiful out of a something as trite as a man slowly turning into a statue as his statue turns into a living woman.
I can draw simple comparisons to the American theatrical débuts of two of Cerda's Spanish countrymen, Alejandro Amenábar and Jaume Balagueró. Amenábar's The Other's, though a well made film, is terribly unoriginal and sanitized, and Balagueró's Darkness was bland and just plain bad. Like those films, The Abandoned is something rather unimpressive from a filmmaker that looked like he could be the next big thing. As a horror fan craving something new the whole film was a downer. It’s not a bad film, just an entirely unremarkable one.
The Abandoned is pretty constantly tinted in either blue or amber, and is very, very dark overall. Most of the film's fine details are discernable during this darkness, but noise is occasionally overpowering. The film's stark whites are bright without bleeding or blocking, but some of the highlights have a tinge of edge enhancement. This is a pretty nice transfer overall, and without making I direct comparison, I'd say it's the best of the Horrorfest collection.
Like I said, the film's scare tactics are a bit on the obvious side, but the sound is still impressive. The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is full and subtle when needed. The sound effects and music are same ol', same ol', but the DVD itself reproduces them well. Dialogue is clear and centred when needed. I noticed no obvious errors on this one.
For the flagship title of the After Dark Horrorfest this disc is pretty paltry. The only extra is a quick making-of featurette, which as per the norm is mostly made to sell the film. Cerda supplied intelligent commentary, in English for his short film release, I'm surprised he didn't do the same here...unless he was as unsatisfied with the final product as I am. I suppose you could consider the monster amount of trailers that precede the film an extra, but I really don't.
A big disappointment all the way round. I can see why audiences may have voted this their favourite in the Horrorfest catalogue, but that doesn't make it a good film. I'm more disappointed in director Nacho Cerda than anything. This is not the feature length debut I expected from such an obviously talented filmmaker. The disc itself features solid A/V, but its sole extra leaves quite a bit to be desired.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 19th June 2007
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 2.0 English
Subtitles: English and Spanish
Extras: Making of, Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Nacho Cerdà
Cast: Karel Roden, Paraskeva Djukelova, Valentin Ganev, Anastasia Hille, Carlos Reig-Plaza
Length: 98 minutes
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