Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The Abandoned--Eytan Rockaway (2015)

Julia/Streak's journey is rather harrowing in The Abandoned (Eytan Rockaway, 2015)
Why is it that so many creepy haunted spaces were formerly the home/burial ground for an insane asylum?  Julia (Louisa Krause) stumbles upon one in the majestically set "haunted heroine" film The Abandoned (Eytan Rockaway, 2015), encountering the gamut of well-preserved children's drawings, rickety beds covered in mysterious stains, and voices calling to her from every corridor and dank, dark hallway--all the ingredients for some derivative, but unsettling scares.  The film opens with Julia taking a cab to her new job as a night security guard at some gigantic, ornate, and sinister abandoned apartment building.  Spectators learn that she's a "haunted heroine" almost immediately, as she chats with her Mom on her phone; we find out that 1) she has a kid, and 2) she's gotten into some trouble, and this job is her "last chance," and 3) that she has to take her "medication."  Of course.  So, from the film's first moments we should not trust Julia's potentially crazy POV, as we go on this subjective journey with her.

Jason Patric is her curmudgeonly paraplegic co-worker Cooper
The first horror that Julia encounters is the grumpy as f*** Cooper (Jason Patric), who has been working as a security guard for quite some time, ruling over a set of surveillance cameras and chasing his coworkers away with rampant hostility.  Yes, he cannot use his legs, which makes him a curious candidate for guard duty, but hey, the film has to make him unhelpful in order to put Julia in serious peril.  The use of a head-cam as Julia walks around gives the film some really unnecessary surveillance footage--making the film even more derivative than it needs to be.  At least Julia isn't a secret ghost hunter, although that fact doesn't make the narrative any less ridiculous.

This mysterious abandoned apartment building looks suspiciously similar to Grand Central Station
The opulent setting of the film's abandoned apartment complex is what makes The Abandoned worth the watch--supposedly it was shot at the Prince George Ballroom in NYC, and some of the sets are pretty breathtaking.  Still, most of the film is shot in dank hallways and boiler rooms barely lit by a flashlight.  Now I love a good, scary hallway, but one really wonders why Julia, on her first night on the job, would decide to break the lock in a forbidden area of the building and go exploring.  Ah, to forward the plot, obviously.

A Heroine isn't truly "Haunted" without malevolent kid ghosts in the mix
As I mentioned earlier, seems that the apartment complex was actually an asylum housing the strangest menagerie of kids with issues, and they really don't like adults.  Mix in some weird poisoned water, neglectful caretakers, and angry ghosts abound.  One silly, but kind of fun scene has Cooper losing control of his wheelchair, as it speeds down the hallway by some kind of "force."  Just when you are truly wondering how Julia and Cooper will get out of this mess, the film switches gears and the ending MAKES NO SENSE.  It garnered a "wait...what?"  As per many desperate horror films, the twist makes you question everything that came before, and then the film SWITCHES BACK, making viewers question the previous ending.  While I can usually posit some type of interpretation (as an expert, natch), this film left me utterly puzzled--as if the filmmakers couldn't decide on an ending either, so let's have two contradictory ones!  The Abandoned is currently streaming on Netflix, and I'm on the fence whether to recommend it or not.  Like The Forest, I would say that there are some really great moments, but they don't make up for a film that really takes a header rather than nailing the landing.  Ooof.