Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Abandoned (2016)

I heard plenty of good things about The Abandoned before I saw it - most of which were comparisons to movies like Session 9 (which I LOVE) and House on Haunted Hill (remake),  so I was all-in when I finally sat down to watch it. 
Unfortunately to me,  it didn't seem to have the punch that those two previously mentioned films seemingly enjoyed.  I think what was the clincher for me was that there were essentially only two characters in the movie, and I didn't like either one.  The haunted building was nothing short of spectacular (I believe it was actually several sites and sets) but the story just didn't jump up and get me.

Previously known as The Confines (not any better, despite the mundane current title), The Abandoned gives us the story of "Streak" (Louisa Krause), a young woman with nothing to lose except a young daughter.  Trying to get her life back on track, Streak takes on a job as a night security guard at an aging apartment building that seems more suited to have grand balls and perhaps an Oscar party in.  It's immense, magnificent, and a whole lot of other adjectives I'll just refrain from mentioning.  Seems the building was never finished and so, like all ridiculously overpriced and underused buildings, it holds mysterious secrets, as well as perhaps a few ghosts.

Streak's partner (because apparently it takes two security guards to protect this abandoned site) is a most unlikable character. Cooper (Jason Patric, still looking pretty fine in his middle-age) is busy monitoring the numerous televisions with views all over the building.  These two will take turns patrolling the building  -for whatever reason- and watching over the entire site via these multiple monitors.   Sounds boring enough, and let me tell you - it is!  For the audience watching them watch, as well.

It is immediately clear that Cooper is a testy bastard, with ignorance and bitterness his two greatest gifts.  Even eventually showing us that he is wheelchair-bound garners no sympathy.  The guy is a blatant asshole, and when he is not pushing his snippy barbs Streak's way, he's scaring her with tales about rooms that were never finished that they are "forbidden" to seek out.   Streak has emotional and perhaps even mental issues that she is shown to be medicated for, and all the talk seems to get her worked up fairly fast.  The two bond for moments only, just a smidge at a time - talking about their daughters.  But most of the time it is sarcasm-central.

For the first half of the film though, there are enough creepy moments that I was kept entertained.  There's nothing like wandering around an empty building to make you hear and see things that (probably) aren't there.... When the two guards allow a homeless man to come inside out of a storm (against Cooper's better judgement), things amp up a bit when said bum goes missing from the room they allowed him to squat in.  As an audience, we are privy to the transient's location - as he and his Rottweiler (because every homeless dude has a purebred dog) wander around the bowels of the building, and it's obvious he was added to the story to provide a victim.  No spoilers, because it really is THAT obvious when they let him inside.

Because Streak is mentally unstable, we're left to wander if she is really hearing noises and seeing unusual sights when she is tasked with patrolling.  When the film starts we are told that the power has been going off and on in some sections of the building, which is a conspicuous hint that we're going to see electrical tricks.  The elevators sometimes work, sometimes not - and you know they aren't going to work when they are in dire need of working.  And like I said, they added the vagrant to the whole ball of wax for terribly obvious reasons.

 Streak and Cooper are linked with headsets and he seems to make her internal suffering even worse by talking her through certain areas and attempting to keep her out of the dreaded "forbidden areas" that she inevitably ends up in.  The director pulls out all the usual haunted house tropes, with creepy visuals and unsettling noises, but it doesn't work quite as effectively as say, Session 9.   The two leads do eventually band together to fight the dark forces at work, and only then do they become even slightly more tolerable.  I did find myself rooting for them as the final act brought forth truths they were forced to confront.  The ending has a much-needed surprise and though a bit contrived, seemed to fit perfectly with the rest of the film.

The Abandoned tries too hard to be straight-cut horror and in the process, just kind of falls into psychological melodrama.  It has all the right elements to be truly unsettling, but instead I found myself thinking (hoping!) that surely something would be lurking around the next corner...  It never was.

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