Friday Night Flix: Absentia

absentia1Welcome to Friday Night Flix, where there’s never a need to leave the couch or put on pants. Each week I’ll recommend an under-the-radar movie currently available on one or more of the major streaming platforms. They won’t all be classics, but every selection is guaranteed to be 100% watchable or your money back.

How great is this setup: seven years after his disappearance, Tricia is about to have her husband declared legally dead….

Does it matter at all what comes next? Reading that, somehow I just knew I would enjoy Absentia (Netflix) regardless of whatever semi-, pseudo-, quasi-, or even ersatz horror might follow. To my particular delight, Absentia yields huge amounts of screen time to small, sympathetic moments between Tricia and her sister, and to a certain gentleman caller’s touchingly arduous attempts at courting Tricia. It goes to show that horror works best when you’ve gotten to know the people who are about to be haunted or tortured to death or whatever.

absentia3And hey, looks like we have a new auteur on the block: a guy named Mike Flanagan wrote, directed, edited, and fluffed the whole movie. IMDB tells me he lives with Courtney Bell, who plays Tricia. Tricia is way preggers the entire time and I think (based on her spot-on pregnant lady waddle) she wasn’t wearing a prosthetic. This is what happens when you forget to restock the condom drawer next to the casting couch, AMIRITE?

All hilarious pregnancy humor aside, the casting is actually one of my favorite parts of Absentia, specifically Bell and Katie Parker as Callie. While neither should expect a call from the Academy anytime soon (and Parker should have taken jogging lessons before playing an obsessive runner) they both look like – and this is insane – real women. WHAAAT. True, Callie has an electric smile and  most assuredly fits anyone’s definition of beauty. Yet she sports quite a bit more haunch than the emaciated L.A. frame we’ve come to expect in movies. Add that to Tricia’s roundish state and Absentia represents that most daring of horror films: one in which portrayals of unrealistic physical forms are reserved for the monsters.

absentia2Unusual touches like that are what make Absentia as good as it is, despite some nigh unforgiveable genre missteps. (Seriously, an internet search turns up reams of flawlessly scanned newspaper clippings dating back hundreds of years? There’s even a half-assed attempt to tie things in to Norse mythology or some shit, which is so unintentionally 90s it hurts my heart. What, no creepy occult historian to explain everything in the third act?) Assuming he can get his rookie tendencies in check, I’m very much looking forward to Flanagan’s next outing. Though please, dear God, someone tell him to stop scoring every scene with the same two gloomy, drawn out tones. It’s like Phillip Glass is trying to drive me insane using only two fingers and a pipe organ. absentia4

Added bonus: You don’t often see devout Christian junkies in movies like this. Or any movie, really. Guess that explains what the ‘H’ in Jesus H. Christ stands for.

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