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The Abandoned

July 31, 2007

Marie, an American film producer, travels to Russia seeking information about her biological parents. The solicitor who has been working for her, Misharin, informs her that her mother died shortly after giving birth. However, she discovers that she has been left the family house, a great rambling estate in a remote mountainous and wooded part of the country.

She goes to see it, but encounters great resistance as the local superstitions claim the area is damned. Only one man will embark on the journey, a stranger who appears to know about her. On arrival the guide mysteriously vanishes, forcing Marie to explore the derelict house alone. She finds someone else on the property: a man named Nikolai, who claims to be her twin brother, also seeking his parents. Because their transport has gone with their guide, they are incapable of returning to civilisation.

Almost immediately they begin to be plagued by terrifying visions of the ghosts that prowl the estate during the night. Ghosts that look exactly like them…

The Abandoned, made by the Spanish director Nacho Cerdà, who was part of the crew responsible for The Machinist (in fact, many of the crew worked on both projects), is a film that is wholly reliant on mood and atmosphere. The plot, once the beautiful visuals and the gloriously eerie sounds are stripped from it can be written on the back of a postage stamp…but then, so can almost all ghost stories.

Admittedly, there is a nagging discomfort apparent as one tries to iron out the illogicalities of the plot, but this shouldn’t detract from what is a very lovely looking film indeed. The Film Festival meet-and-greet guy where I saw it introduced it as a “big, beautiful film” and it is all that; as if David Lean had decided to make an intimate slice of phantasmagoria.

When it works – and it works pretty much all the time – it does that thing that modern horror movies rarely manage, it keeps your admiration ticking over while thoroughly creeping you out.

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