This low budget film, available on Netflix DVD, has won several awards which include: Fargo Film Festival “Best Narrative Feature” (2011), Phoenix International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival “Best Feature Film” (2011), and ShockerFest and Shriekfest “Best Horror Feature” (2011).
Absentia starts off rather slow as it begins with a woman, Tricia, who has been searching for her lost husband for the past several years getting a visit from her younger sister Callie. The two discuss Callie’s recent road trip and reminisce about Tricia’s husband Daniel. After several years with no leads or information about her husband’s whereabouts, Tricia finally calls it quits and ends her effort to look for him. While she seems reluctant to let go, she is carrying a child that apparently belongs to the detective that was assigned to her husband’s case. I guess she got really lonely after a while, or the detective made a smooth move here.
The film up to this point doesn’t really provide any clues as to whether or not Daniel is actually dead or alive but we suspect he is dead. I mean not a single trace of his existence has surfaced over several years and people don’t just up and vanish, well perhaps in this film they do.
After Daniel is declared dead in “absentia” Tricia gets the official death certificate and starts having horrific visions of her husband who is apparently pissed off at her for having a bastard child with another man and for giving up on her search for him. Ok, so now he must be dead right?
Meanwhile, as Callie visits her big sister she goes out for a ritual morning jog around the neighborhood, which includes a tunnel that passes under a freeway. One morning while running she sees what looks to be a homeless man lying in the middle of the tunnel. As she tries to sneak by the zombie looking man he awakens and is surprised that the young jogger can see him. He asks repeatedly if she can see him and offers her some old jewelry in exchange for a message to his son. Out of what looks like desperation from being hungry, Callie decides not to accept the old jewelry and instead returns later that day to give some food to this poor hungry man. Upon returning she finds the man gone so she leaves the food at the entrance to the tunnel, “The Offer.” When Callie leaves the food she receives a little surprise on her sister’s doorstep, which appears to be the really old jewelry that the man offered her in the tunnel. This of course freaks her out and she takes the jewelry back to the tunnel and leaves it there. She is confronted by a young man who tells her not to leave the stuff there but ignores the advice and leaves it anyway. Later that evening she finds the same old jewelry under the covers of her bed. She calls the police and they bag and tag everything and later describe the goods as being stolen from local neighbors. OK, this is starting to get creepy.
You can assume up to this point that there are demonic forces at work here. In demonology, in order to summon a demon you must make an offer; Callie unknowingly made an offer that would change her and her sister’s lives forever. This is the point in the film where things start picking up. Tricia, while trying to move on, decides to start “officially” dating the detective that was assigned to her husband’s case. As they leave for date night, Tricia once again sees Daniel but tries to ignore his presence thinking it is another hallucination, only this time her detective boyfriend pauses and is looking in the same direction where she sees her husband. Can this be? Daniel is in fact alive and returns after seven years and looks confused and beat to hell. Damn, what shitty timing for this poor woman. Tricia, who is emotionally distraught, takes Daniel to the hospital where they find bones of animals in his stomach. Ouch! The hospital releases Daniel back home where Tricia must now put back together the pieces of her life that have fallen apart over the last seven years. As she meets with her detective boyfriend to call off their relationship, Daniel tells Callie at home that she should not have traded with “it” and that “it” was within the walls of his bedroom. She doesn’t believe him at first but then hears and sees this “monster” herself as it moves past her door quickly. A frightened Daniel is quickly dragged off by this creature back into the tunnel under the freeway. Callie, doped up at the time, is in utter shock at what she just saw and tries to explain everything to the authorities and Tricia but is shot down due to her obvious use of drugs at the time. Instead, Tricia blames herself for Daniel’s disappearance.
The backstory behind Daniel’s disappearance is explained when Callie starts doing some online research of other cases of missing persons and mythological stories of ancient insect demons and creatures of the dark that come to drag you from your peace of mind to another dimension where you are tortured. The story relates to biblical reference that there are certain souls that are destined to be tortured for their entire physical lives but are rewarded with eternal bliss in heaven afterwards.
Callie starts looking up local missing persons and starts to relate the mysterious disappearances around similar tunnels and shows it to her sister. Tricia, being skeptical, brushes it off. That is until the creature shows up to drag her to an eternal pit of torture. Callie, rushing to save her sister, finds that it is too late as she can hear her sister screaming beyond the thick concrete walls. Callie goes to the police where her story is ignored and they accuse her of being responsible for the situation by relating the incident as a possible drug deal that went south. The police finally let her go demanding that she doesn’t leave town, and out of desperation she returns to the tunnel to offer herself for the life of her sister, instead the insect demon taunts her by releasing Tricia’s dead unborn baby from the tunnel’s walls. Feeling hopeless she leaves an envelope with all the research she recently collected on several other related disappearances and leaves town, which ultimately the detective ignores as rubbish.
The acting in this film is spot on and the relationship between the sisters is believable. While the film starts off a little slow in the beginning, its approach to build up tension surrounding the mystery behind the missing husband fits well with the enigmatic disappearances of several other people in the area. The fact that they don’t really show the creature leaves room for imagination and I kind of like that approach.
I’m not going to lie, this is the type of movie I really enjoy as it features believable acting, an original plot, mystery, and leaves you with a “why.” This movie is no creature feature, but if you enjoy creepy movies that create a mysterious atmosphere and leaves you hanging on the edge then this film is for you. What do you think?