There’s a famous Russian movie, worshipped by pretentious art-house types, called Stalker, in which, for about three hours or more, a few talkative comrades stumble around decaying ruins, too frightened and hopeless to make any progress, and that’s really just about it. If you’ve every wondered what Stalker would have been like with some halfway decent ghosts or shambling zombies to really embody the terror those heroes felt, The Abandoned answers that. Not really much better, but at least there are ghosts and zombies.
Spanish director Nacho Cerda (no relation to Nacho Libre) achieves a milieu very much akin to Italian Eurosleaze exploitationers of the late '70s/early '80s (think Lucio Fulci or Lamberto Bava). But is that a good thing? Marie (Anastasia Hille), a Russian-born Hollywood producer in post-divorce menopausal personal crisis, arrives in the former USSR (portrayed forbiddingly by Bulgaria) to claim a belated property inheritance, which has apparently taken 42 years for bureaucracy to sort out. A prologue revealed she had a blood-curdling infancy, discovered by relatives who found her mother brutalized and dead behind the wheel of the truck in the yard.
Maria ends up literally marooned at her ancestral homestead, a moldering, remote family farmhouse, ringed by treacherous rivers. There she finds plenty of dried blood, lurking corner-of-the-eye phantoms and zombies, and a man named Nikolai (Karel Roden), who claims to be her long-lost twin brother, coincidentally arrived at the haunted hovel for the same reason. They creep around in the detritus and murk, together or separately, tediously awaiting some sort of ghostly resolution to their fates at the midnight hour, as the violence-cursed Monster House slowly resumes its 1966 form. There’s maybe one good narrative twist, and a gradual build up of horror, from pure mood to ghastly infanticide and mutilation. This certainly winds up more explicit and intense than those toothless I-was-a-teenaged-PG-13-remake-of-a-Japanese-movie chillers that the gore fans complain about.
Otherwise, entertainment value is minimal as the script, which somehow took three credited writers to bang out. Now that’s scary! Wait for an all-night Halloween party, then rent The Abandoned with the sound turned down, to provide proper spookhouse ambiance on the video monitor. Stalker too, for that matter.