Houses with secrets are reliable staples of genre fare. It doesn’t matter what type of film you’re dealing with – mystery, horror, whatever – if the secrets harbored by the house are interesting enough, you can get more mileage out of this familiar archetype. The Abandoned is a recent film that takes on the “house with a secret” concept. Unfortunately, this is a case where the secrets aren’t as interesting as the house that harbors them.
The heroine of The Abandoned is Streak (Louisa Krause), a troubled young woman who is trying to get steady employment so she can regain custody of her child. Her last chance lies in being an overnight security guard at a historical, palatial ex-apartment building that lies in a now ghettoized part of the city. She finds herself working with Cooper (Jason Patric), a grizzled veteran who isn’t thrilled at having a new partner. The building is gorgeous but creepy – and Streak makes things tougher when she lets in a possibly psycho homeless man (Mark Margolis) in to escape the rain and begins exploring a locked-off part of the building. Jump scares and plot twists ensue.
The best thing about The Abandoned is its location: the fantastically designed building it uses is stunning, epic in scope and more than a little creepy. Director Eytan Rockaway and cinematographer Zack Galler effectively exploit its picturesque qualities and potential for atmosphere. When Streak is exploring its many floors and rooms, there’s an automatic tension as the camera prowls around with her.
Unfortunately, The Abandoned can’t think of anything new or interesting to do with this setting. Ido Fluk’s script, based on a story that Rockaway co-penned, piles on cliché after cliché as its a heroine forces herself into a series of unnecessary jams and relies on characters that are too edgy or depressed to be accessible to the audience. Without getting into spoilers, the reveal of the house’s history is lifted verbatim from a famous 1970’s t.v. news expose. Even worse, the finale relies upon a hokey, M. Night Shyamalan-esque twist that is a cheat and overtly familiar at the same time.
Rockaway’s direction is competent, if a little overreliant on sound design-assisted jump scares, and the cast does their best with their familiar roles (Patric is the scene-stealer here, bringing a biting wit to his character’s sarcasm). That said, the lack of new and interesting secrets for its haunted house setting – and that letdown of an ending – make The Abandoned a missed opportunity at revitalizing a familiar setting.
Blu-Ray Notes: Scream Factory has released this IFC Midnight title on blu-ray. The transfer does well by the film’s shadowy interiors and the 5.1 lossless stereo mix bring plenty of oomph to the frequent scary noises on the soundtrack. Extras consist of a trailer, a couple of deleted scenes that offer extensions to existing in the film and an alternate ending that slightly tweaks the surprise coda without dramatically changing it.