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The Abandoned | Review

Be Afraid of the Dark: Rockaway’s Familiar Debut Enhanced by Atmospheric Locale

The Abandoned PosterDirector Eytan Rockaway makes his directorial debut with the claustrophobic single set horror film The Abandoned (initially titled The Confines). Apart from its undistinguished title already being similar to a 2002 Katie Holmes flick and a 2006 Nacho Cerda thriller, Rockaway adapts from a story co-written by Ido Fluk, a narrative determined exclusively by its impressive venue, a discarded luxury apartment house complex. Though the film features uncustomarily polished performances for an indie horror feature from its two known lead performers, their energy only lasts so long in yet another dwindling account of wayward supernatural forces terrorizing protagonists for vague, unexplained reasons until its final, elucidating frames.

Streak (Louisa Krouse) is an emotionally frayed young woman desperate to keep her life together. Struggling to keep custody of her daughter, she flings herself into an employment opportunity which involves taking a job as an overnight security guard in an abandoned luxury apartment building. Assisted by the security room operator Cooper (Jason Patric), who doesn’t take kindly to Streak, the young woman finds herself at the beginning of an arduous night of bickering. But on her rounds of the building, Streak begins to see and hear ominous visions, and soon is convinced she has discovered a dark secret within the infrastructure.

Low key special effects add little to the eerie factor Rockaway establishes early on thanks to the cavernous, monolithic apartment complex. However, the narrative’s shackling (which eventually conveys a shrivelled twist similar to a famed L. Frank Baum adaptation) degrades into inescapable silliness, a pity considering all the inventive possibilities (imagine what shadowy dread Jacques Tourneur would have fashioned inside such an infrastructure in the 1940s). Instead, we’re distracted by some overt bitchiness between Jason Patric’s impatient watch dog and Louisa Krause’s emotionally frazzled pill-popping mother-in-trouble angle, a relationship depicted as borderline flirtatious camp.

The key figure is Krause, who seems to get saddled with roles requiring the hard-edged grit Aubrey Plaza corners in the indie comedic market. Popping up in a number of notable supporting roles, including memorable moments in items such as Martha Marcy May Marlene, Young Adult, and the indie Bluebird, Krause is front and center this time around, and is featured more significantly here than in the recent comedy horror effort Ava’s Possessions (2015). But her brittle portrayal of a troubled single mother is marred by the screenplay’s insistent supernatural whims, which are used as routine manipulations to distract us from a surprise.

Matters aren’t helped by her self-professed nickname, Streak, a detail which seems a flaccid angle of undeveloped characterization. Meanwhile, familiar character actor Mark Margolis shows up as a subplot involving a random homeless person to throw us off the scent, but his presence results in another moment of questionable logic concerning the common sense of its characters (the kind supposedly justified by its last minute reveal).

Deserted buildings are often the site of eerie genre films, from mental institutions (Session 9; The Conjuring 2) to the colorful nightmares of Polanski’s famed apartment trilogy, all transpiring in compromised facades. Rockaway’s The Abandoned, like its title, eventually becomes more of a vague concept, unable to justify its own means.


Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2021: France (Bruno Dumont), Passing (Rebecca Hall) and Nightmare Alley (Guillermo Del Toro). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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