Pop Culture Gadabout
Thursday, April 24, 2008
      ( 4/24/2008 05:52:00 AM ) Bill S.  

"WE'RE HAUNTING OURSELVES!" Recently was given a DVD of Nacho Cerda's The Abandoned - one of eight "After Dark Horrorfest" flicks I've been seeing on the budget racks of Wal-Mart and Target - by an acquaintance who knew I was curious about this festival of low-budget horror films. Purportedly voted "fan favorite" at the 2006 Horrorfest, the flick wasn't all that impressive to my benefactor, who pronounced it "pretty suspenseful but not all that scary." After viewing it for myself this weekend, I'd revise that one-line critique to "nicely moody but still not all that scary."

The movie concerns an unlikeable Russian-born American businesswoman (Anastasia Hille) who returns to the motherland to get some answers about her past. Her journey takes her to a ruined old isolated farmhouse where she meets a man claiming to be her twin brother. Before too long, both sibs are being haunted by blank-eyed zombie doppelgangers of themselves - and the ghost of their inexplicably powerful dead dad.

Small cast, isolated setting: I'm tempted to describe the flick as a blend of the original Carnival of Souls (there's even a car going off a bridge) and the second Evil Dead, only Abandoned isn't half as effective as either of these drive-in classics. Perhaps it'd work better shown late-nite in the middle of a full-blown horror festival, but, running it through the DVD player on a weekend morning, I felt rather distant from the goings-on. The flick has atmosphere to spare - and a great, desiccated haunted house. But I never really doubted that the movie was headed for its downbeat ending, and I also never felt any dread over our hard-edged heroine's inevitable fate.

Still, viewing the promos for the seven other offerings in the "After Dark" series, I find my curiosity piqued about other entries in the series (Takishi Shimizu's Reincarnation, for instance - if only because it looks like it builds on Grudge 2's show biz setting). Each one's going for only $7.50 at Wally World, so you can bet I'll trying out a few more over the next month or so . . .
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Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

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