REVIEW: Absentia (2011)



Absentia:  C+

Low budget flicks like this are hard to gauge.  Should you give it credit for overcoming a shoestring budget?  Or should you note that its limitations don’t quite allow for a fully-formed film?

In this case, I went with the latter, but if you talked to me on a different day, I could be convinced to bump it up into the “B” range.  Ultimately, it falls in the category of “nice little film” that could’ve been a helluva lot better with a cash infusion.   It’s the kind of movie where you find yourself muttering, “Was this shit funded by Kickstarter?” and then you go and look it up, and sure enough, this shit was funded by Kickstarter.

What works: An intriguing plot about a woman living in the L.A. valley whose husband has gone missing.  No note, no body, no clues as to where he fucked off to.  Just…gone.  It’s been  seven years, so she’s having him declared legally dead “in absentia.”  This lady’s much hotter younger sister comes to stay with her to help her through the transition, but maybe she’s just there because she’s a druggie with no options.  Some good sister drama there.

The malevolence revolves around this pedestrian tunnel near their house.  Hot Younger Sister goes jogging through it an encounters an apparent homeless man in rough shape.  She stops to check on him, and he’s amazed that she can see him.  He cries “It must be asleep!” as she retreats the fuck  out of there.  Nice hook.  This, of course, makes Thing in the Tunnel suspect #1 in the whole “What happened to my husband?” mystery.  Complicating matters, the detective who’s been investigating the dude’s disappearance has impregnated the wife.  He’s also a woefully shitty actor.

Which brings us to what doesn’t work.  I can’t see any of these actors making a living doing this, with the possible exception of Hot Younger Sister.   It has one of those let’s-cast-our-friends-who’ll-work-for-snacks vibes.  Then there’s the problem of Thing in the Tunnel.  It’s apparently not confined to the tunnel, as there’s some creepy happenings inside the nearby house.  But you never really get a sense of what the thing is.  It’s always in the shadows, and the director employs all those quick cuts that you have to use when you don’t have the special effects budget to build something scary on camera.

You could do worse than checking this out on Netflix streaming, but you’ll probably be left with the same decent-but-not-great feeling I had at the end.   I was left wondering what the director (Mike Flanagan) could do with a bigger budget, but Bloodcrypt Keeper has your answer.  Maybe the bargain bin is where Flanagan should stay.


REVIEW: Split Second (1992)



Split Second: C+

London, 2008: Welcome to a future where Rutger Hauer is a motorcycle-riding, candy bar inhaling, chain smoking cop who plays by his own rules. He wasn’t always like this. Years ago, his partner was murdered and it pushed him over the edge to Lethal Weapon levels of maverick badass-ery. He chugs liters of coffee and the police chief gets pissed at him a lot. Yes, he wears sunglasses indoors and cracks one-liners while using gratuitous violence to subdue criminals. No, he doesn’t use the department-issue firearm; those things are for pussies.

The film has been criticized for it unoriginality since it blatantly tries to capitalize off of the popularity of other action/sci-fi movies of its time, most notably Blade Runner, Predator, and Lethal Weapon. The aforementioned maverick-cop clichés from Lethal Weapon are pretty clear. The movie looks just like Blade Runner; it’s set in London where rising sea levels and perpetual rain makes it look exactly like the grey, wet dystopia in which Harrison Ford hunted androids. The villain in Split Second is a hulking Predator-looking monster who obsesses over confronting Hauer in hand-to-hand combat, almost as if it adheres to the same code of honor as the Predators.

You could rename the movie “Lethal Predator Runner” and it would work.  

The movie is fun because it plagiarizes from other successful films and then turns the things it steals up to 11 all while (I think) being comically NOT self-aware of how transparent the theft is. Hauer has cartoonish levels of defiance and self-destruction. The weather is an unending monsoon that creates urban lakes and acres of obfuscating fog. The monster is a superhuman killing machine who looks like Venom and does shit like creep up and tap people on the shoulder before eviscerating them.

The carnage isn’t spectacular, but it’s there. The monster rips some dudes up and absorbs anything useful from their DNA. Gore-hounds, this is no splatter-fest. The monster (“ONE UGLY MOTHERFUCKER!”) almost suffers from a case of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers syndrome as there are a few shots of him lumbering around like an alcoholic in a rubber suit. He doesn’t look terrible but he doesn’t look scary.

This movie is the love-child of shitty action movies and shitty horror movies. If you like those two things, then see this movie. It combines the best parts of the two and executes them with an impressive air of shamelessness.