Borderlands (Zev Berman, 2007): 6.5/10

The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975): 7/10

La Guerre Est Finie (Alain Resnais, 1966): 7/10

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): 8/10

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Location: milwaukee, wi

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Abandoned (Nacho Cerda, 2006)

It's not hard at all to make a good horror film (a few recent examples will tell you that), but it is incredibly hard to make a great, thought-provoking one. As a part of Horror Fest (of which I only got to see this one, and am disappointed in my broke self), Spanish director Nacho Cerda crafted one, this tale of Russian-born, British-raised, American-living film producer Marie who goes back to the motherland to find out the truth about her parents, as she was abandoned as an infant and has never been able to find out the truth. She finds out that she has inherited a family property, a farm in the middle of nowhere. The middle of nowhere in Russia is really creepy. Once there, and coincidentally abandoned by her guide, she meets her twin brother Nikolai, who has also just been able to find out about their parents. Another creepy coincidence! In fact, the word for this movie is creepy, as it's a traditional ghost story made even more tense by its hallucinogenic effects and tampering with time.

That's right, Cerda makes time and place completely impermanent in this film, as in the terrifying last half hour, when things are definitely not as they seem. Places that were familiar are now enemy, and going back into the past (at least in your mind, as we're never sure what's actually happening) is an option. Plus, Nikolai and Marie have creepy doppelganger-ghosts that show them how they die. Or do they? Cerda presents so many unanswerable questions that this movie can be frustrating to the left brain, but it's better if you just let the ambience take its toll.

I appreciated this film in a great many ways, even though I think I might have been the only one in the theater who liked it much (moans & groans were heard at the end). One thing I really loved about the movie is its breaking of pretty much every horror film mold (maybe why people didn't like it?): there's no nudity/sex, and, in my favorite twist, the heroine is a 42 year old woman. Take that, nubile starlets! Anastasia Hille, who played Marie, is great in this role as uptight Marie, who steps into this horror world she cannot control, unlike everything else in her life. The final twist is a good, pretty cerebral one, that turns everything on its head. So there people on the IMDB boards are talking about what a terrible movie this is - if you like surreal, yet incredibly real and scary horror (with a little bit of gore for good measure) film, definitely check out The Abandoned - I read an interview with Cerda that said it'll be in UK theaters around Christmas (a good time for family reunions, he joked), and hopefully US theaters sometime after that. In the meantime, I'll be checking out Cerda's Aftermath and Genesis sometime soon.


RIYL: Altered States, Jacob's Ladder (cerebral, hallucinogenic horror films)

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