The curse of prediction
In the quiet mountain town of Liberty, the youngsters of the local high school seem to have made it onto someone’s death list. Science teacher Vincent Burton (Bryan Kirkwood) finds himself wrapped up in the murder mystery soon enough and together with Sheriff John Jackson (Samuel Ball) he’ll have to put a stop to the murders.
With the production of the The Absent a lot of people were involved who went through college together. So this basically is yet another story of a group of friends coming together again to make a movie. But the little difference here, is that The Absent turned out a professional work of independent cinema. Though not in the same league as the Hollywood stars, every actor & actress carries their part adequately enough. The cinematography is commendable and the wonderful setting of the isolated mountain town is put to good use.
The problem is that The Absent doesn’t do anything ballsy, and that doesn’t make the movie any more memorable. What the denouement boils down to, is far from original. And the way the script sets itself up, undermines the mystery that’s trying to build itself up. Bannick and co-writers Damon Abdallah & Ari Bernstein did good by keeping things coherent and focussing on a more serious tone of storytelling. But predictability is the death of any story, and an illness The Absent also suffers from; quite painfully even.
Nonetheless, the suspenseful scenes at hand are fairly well-crafted. The slow pace isn’t really anything to complain about, as it was clearly intended to be a film of a slow brooding nature. One thing that didn’t work too well, was the music used throughout the film. Bannick‘s clear choice was to use various rock & pop music for scenes featuring the teenagers. Understandable, but that’s just too easy. Too much songs in this film, period. Especially because the film itself also seems to be wanting to please not only teen audiences. The Absent does not try to by hip or groovy (and that’s a compliment, since we’re basically talking a slasher movie here), so the soundtrack should have stuck to a more traditional feel.
To round things up: the cast is pleasing on the eyes, especially the ladies. And cinematographer Eric Curtis knows how to make them look good on camera. Most of the cast die in a gruesome manner, though no scene is ever too explicit. Maybe The Absent could have been better if the writers had inserted some unforseen twists in the plot. Then again, such a twist could have turned the film into something ludicrous. Now it’s just a normal film. Too normal, with no surprises. Too bad on the one hand, since we’re not getting any more out of it. Fair enough on the other, since it’s a decent indie-thriller and a tepid but nicely ballanced mix of horror & drama.
The Absent had me thinking about another, rather similar film, though one that tells a different story. It’s called Past Midnight (1991), stars Rutger Hauer & Natasha Richardson and it’s pretty much a better movie altogether. So you know what to watch when you thought The Absent had potential already.