By Andrew Buckner
Rating: *** out of *****.
A film noir take on the supernatural thriller, writer and director Mark W. Curran’s Abandoned Dead, suffers from an all too familiar late twist.
Curran’s film focuses on Rachel Burke (Sarah Nicklin in a competent performance). She is a security guard for a healing facility. Called into the night shift she eventually begins sensing a terrifying presence slowly resonating about her. But, what is it? What does it want and why?
Despite an atmospheric score and mood draped cinematography by Robert Adams the seventy-seven minute feature (the DVD is reported to run eighty-five minutes) never dares peer that pensively at its narrative.
Instead Curran’s story follows suit with many horror works of our day. It does this by keeping everything on a surface level.
In turn, most of the effort is composed of many long shots. This is punctuated by the far too common sight of Nicklin pointing a flashlight into darkness. We are also handed endless walks down hallways. Alongside this we get ample doses of what could perhaps be paranormal activity.
All of these elements are well done. They provide stupendous atmosphere if that is all you wish for from a terror venture. Still, it leaves us with little to distinguish it from its genre peers.
The pace moves in much the same traditional fashion. For most of the piece Curran and his filmmakers successfully build a gradual sense of menace that, ultimately, leads nowhere new.
When Night of the Living Dead star Judith O’ Dea shows up late in the cinematic composition the sight of such a genre legend adds an element of credibility to the feature. Her performance as Doctor Pamela Myers is solid and enjoyable.
Moreover, the rest of the cast, especially Robert E. Wilhelm as Doctor Thaddeus Mayfield and Carlos Ramirez as Detective Phillip Haggis, fares just as well.
The special effects by Melanie Aksamit and Hannah Sherer are effective. They are also minimally used. This helps heighten the impact of the picture as a whole.
The nuance of these characteristics often gives the proceedings a classic thriller veneer. Such an attribute is much appreciated.
Curran’s impressive directorial flare and intriguingly constructed screenplay also help matters.
The main function of Abandoned Dead is to build an impression of unease. It does this satisfactorily.
Moreover, it incorporates a few moments that are genuinely unnerving. Regardless, it often feels as if it is going through the motions. It also appears unsure of itself at times.
This is overall fair entertainment. Still, I can’t help but think that we could’ve had something truly special.
This entry in fear evoking comes up a bit lacking in the end. Such an impression is brought upon because we leave the picture wishing that as much emphasis was put on the resolution as there was with building suspense.
Abandoned Dead is one case where the pieces are far more fascinating than the actual scene they together visualize.
Curran’s latest is more about the experience, the journey than the actual destination.