Marie (Anastasia Hille) is a 40ish single mom of a teenaged daughter who's never felt whole in her entire life. Seeking some sense of completion as a person, she goes searching for the birth parents she never knew and discovers that she was born in a remote area of Russia, where her familial home stands empty and abandoned. (Well, abandoned, but maybe not empty…)
Marie makes the overseas journey from America to Russia, then finds a driver to take her over miles of dirt road to the lonely, secluded home nestled in a thick forest. Once there, dropped off with nothing but a duffle bag and a heap of confusion, she encounters a mysterious man named Nicolai (Karel Roden) who claims to be her brother, a twin she never knew. He says they were children together in that house, and that over this night, their memories will surely surface.
Ghosts, zombies, doppelgangers, or reanimated corpses — whatever you wish to think of them as — all come home to roost as Marie and Nicolai are forced to relive a series of ghastly events which occurred just after they were born. Now trapped in the place they were supposed to die, the twins must somehow right the wrongs of the past in order to survive.
Abandoned reminded me quite a bit of an Asian film called The Echo (aka, Sigaw) — and a few others; it's nothing new in the genre, but aside from a severely sagging midsection, the horror and suspense aspects are far from, er, abandoned by first-time director Nacho Cerdà. This is no doubt a low-budget film with a lot of spoken supposition, running and hiding; however, when the creatures are shown, they don't disappoint. The makeup is well-done, and special effects are wisely kept to a bare minimum.
The gloomy, yet sharply rendered imagery from cinematographer Xavi Gimenezs (The Machinist) adds to grim terror experienced by our protagonists, as does the jangling dissonance of the original score by Alfons Conde.
While I will admit I was pretty bored during the middle of the movie (I don't mind when things get talky, but nothing new was added to the suspense via the dialogue), it rallies in the end and has a satisfying, fittingly unsettling conclusion.
= = =Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson