I wouldn’t quite say that I’m a complete found footage apologist, but most of my colleagues have more issues with the sub-genre than I do. Though I’ve had the occasional movie of this nature that I’ve dispised (Apollo 18 anyone?), by and large I enjoy the different take that you get with found footage. In opting to make his horror-thriller hybrid Absence a found footage tale, filmmaker Jimmy Loweree manages to both help and hurt his cause. While it’s a different look to a type of film you’ve definitely seen before, it also exacerbates the already painfully slow nature of the story. It’s hard to be bored by a solid horror-thriller, but this one manages to do that, indicating that it’s not so good. I was never especially disinterested, but too often during the already lean running time (barely over 80 minutes long) I found myself wondering if or when things would pick up. They sort of do during the climax, but by then it’s too little, too late. There’s the set up here for a really compelling little flick, but it just never quite gets off the ground, leading to a disappointing experience for me. It gets credit for not being a remake or a sequel, but it isn’t due enough credit for a recommendation, that’s for sure.
The opening of the film sets us up for the mystery to come. Heavily pregnant Liz (Erin Way) wakes up one day to find out that her baby is gone from her womb. Doctors don’t know what to make of this and the police are called, suspecting some sort of homicide or kidnapping. Obviously, Liz and her husband Rick (Eric Matheny) are prime suspects in a missing persons case, though Liz’s brother Evan (Ryan Smale) is in her corner. Evan is an aspiring filmmaker and decides to document everything, hoping to get to the bottom of it all. The three decide to head off to a quick getaway in the mountains, partly as a vacation and partly as a form of therapy for Liz. Of course, nothing is that simple and pretty soon it’s apparent that something very odd is happening to her. Seeing it all through Evan’s camera, you’ll slowly begin to find out just what the deal is here, but don’t expect too much in the way of a concrete resolution. That’s just not the type of movie that this is in the end.
I don’t have much to say about the acting, though individual moments are solid enough. Erin Way is believable as a woman in this sort of situation, though she’s not especially well defined as a character. Most of that is due to the screenplay, but Way doesn’t exactly elevate the material. She’s the best of the main trio though, I’ll give her that. Both Eric Matheny and Ryan Smale are fine, but they struck me as fairly boring overall. Matheny is a bit one note, while Smale is limited by being behind the camera a bunch. There’s small supporting parts for folks like Stephanie Scholz as well as Lee Burns, Michael Angelo Covino, Tamra Meskimen, and David Paladino, but aside from Scholz, no one gets much to do. This is really centered around Matheny, Smale, and Way, with Way being the one to leave at least a little bit of an impression on me.
Co-writer/director Jimmy Loweree seems a bit unclear in what he wants to do here. The script he penned with Jake Moreno sets up the basis for a compelling movie, but it never builds on that or does much with the premise. Loweree also brings nothing new to the found footage style behind the camera, pretty much just doing what’s ben done before (and better I might add). He doesn’t especially give his actors too much to do either, resulting in one of the more dull films of this ilk in some time. Individual scenes are pretty good, but they never gel together with the finished product. Loweree and Moreno just aren’t up to the task of formulating a compelling narrative. There’s a ton of missed opportunities all around. This could have been a good flick, but instead it’s a frustrating reminder of what might have been.
I found Absence to be rather underwhelming overall. It never becomes bad or anything like that, but too often it tests your patience and reminds you of better found footage flicks. The movie barely runs 80 minutes, but it feels like it’s over two hours long, and that’s never a good thing for a film that’s supposed to thrill. The early sequences made me hopeful for something dark and mysterious, but instead I wound up with something limp and disappointing. There’s a good movie to made from this material, but no one involved was able to pull it off…
–Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!