Absentia, a horror film that made some waves on the festival circuit before going straight to a recent DVD release, is a very creepy little number. I don’t know where writer-director Mike Flanagan hails from, but his script reminded me of some of Ramsey Campbell’s best short stories in the way its horrors enter the story from an oblique angle while the characters, all of them immersed in their very human concerns, find ways not to acknowledge the very inhuman presence affecting them. The film creates a very believable group of wounded souls — a woman coming to terms with her husband’s disappearance, a bad-seed sister come back to make amends, a cop who takes entirely too close an interest in the wife’s situation — bound together by a tragedy caused by something they will understand too late, if at all.
The monster’s appearances are fleeting, and it is never seen fully. The film instead concentrates on the effect it has on its victims, and while the creature’s motives are never made clear, the film’s wrenching climax — set in a pedestrian tunnel that is beyond menacing — hints at truly inhuman loathsomeness. Everyone involved in this film (which was launched with the help of Kickstarter) should go on to better things, but this is a great start. I’m particularly interested in what Flanagan does next. All good horror stories are, at bottom, tragedies. Flanagan understands this, and that’s why Absentia keeps nibbling at the imagination long after showier horrors have faded from memory.