Hell Plaza Oktoberfest
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2006 (2007) - After Dark (Lionsgate)
I admire the idea of the After Dark
Horrorfest, a miniature horror film festival that
debuted last year. For one fall weekend, eight independent
horror movies are given a shot at theatrical distribution.
Horror fans get a chance to see movies they might not otherwise
be exposed to. More importantly, some up-and-coming filmmakers
are given a bigger platform than the usual direct-to-video route
movies like these usually take.
I was hundreds of miles away from the nearest participating
city during last year's Horrorfest
but I've caught up with them on DVD. Not surprisingly, they're a
mixed bag. Some, like Mike Mendez's The
Gravedancers, are fun. A lot more, including the
aptly-named Penny Dreadful,
are every bit as lousy as any horror movie ever made. Nacho Cerdà's
The Abandoned is the last
of the eight to hit home video. It's also one of the highlights
of the first Horrorfest.
Hille stars as Marie, a woman born in Russia in the late 60s and
raised by her adopted parents in the UK and US. She returns to
Russia when she learns she's inherited land, hoping to find some
answers about her birth parents. Once she arrives at the house, she
quickly discovers she isn't alone. A man named Nicolai (Karel Roden)
is already there, claiming to be her twin brother. Even more
disturbingly, both Marie and Nicolai find themselves haunted by
their own dead-eyed doppelgangers.
It would be a stretch to call The
Abandoned a horror classic. There isn't a whole lot here
you haven't seen before. But Cerdà handles the proceedings
well, setting up a deliberate pace and a creepy atmosphere. Also,
it's refreshing to see a horror movie featuring an intelligent
40-something woman as its protagonist instead of the gaggle of
brain-dead teens most horror flicks are about. That coupled with its
unusual setting give The Abandoned
a leg up in originality. Cerdà starts things slowly but
builds the tension with precision, ratcheting things up to a tense
finale that doesn't disappoint.
Lionsgate's DVD gets high marks for video and audio quality,
although the extras are the least substantial of the eight Horrorfest
titles. All you get is a brief "making-of" featurette
that's only marginally more interesting than your standard
promotional puffery. It's a shame, since the behind-the-scenes
footage glimpsed here suggests Cerdà is a serious and
committed filmmaker whose working methods are worth exploring in
Haunted house movies are tough to pull off. When they work, you can
get a classic like 1963's The Haunting.
When they don't, you get laughable junk like 1999's The
Haunting. Nacho Cerdà's The
Abandoned works, maybe not as well as The
Haunting or The Shining
but well enough. At its best, it's a dark, fun ride that provides
all the scares you'd want from a haunted house.
Film Rating: B
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/A/D
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