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With Lady Pam De Graff

Lady Pam De GraffABSENTIA (2011)
WRITTEN and DIRECTED BY: Mike Flanagan
FEATURING: Katie Parker, Courtney Bell, Dave Levine, Morgan Peter Brown, Justin Gordon, James Flanagan
TAGS: mystery


In a neighborhood plagued by mysterious disappearances, two sisters fall into an incipient enigma emanating from an eerie pedestrian tunnel.

COMMENTS: Absentia's deceptively simple plot draws us into its dark, foreboding odyssey from the very first frame. A quiet, brooding horror movie, this independent mystery-thriller punctuates an aurora of gradually escalating dread with some genuinely startling chills. This isn't an easy task to accomplish when horror audiences have see it all. While Absentia isn't an edge-of-the-seat nail-biter, it manages to provide some frightening interludes which are truly scary.

In Absentia, two sisters Callie (Parker) and Tricia (Bell) cope with having Callie's missing husband Daniel (Brown) officially declared deceased so that Callie can move on with her life. But is Daniel truly dead? He's been missing without a trace for seven years. Despite needing to settle his estate, Callie clings to the hope that Daniel is still out there somewhere, and that there's some reasonable explanation for his disappearance.


Canvassing the neighborhood with missing person posters, Callie and Tricia finally give up trying to find Daniel, but in the process become aware of numerous similar cases. There's something funny going on in the community and the deepening puzzle of vanishings increasingly seems to be linked to an unsavory pedestrian tunnel underneath a nearby freeway.





As Tricia is inexorably drawn to the dank passage again and again while jogging, unsettling events occur which bring to light the fact that the neighborhood has a long, disturbing history of misfortune dating to well before the construction of the tunnel. In the underpass, Tricia finds the belongings of people who were reported missing over the past century. She encounters a prostrate man lying in the tunnel who disappeared years ago, but when she returns he is gone. The police don't believe Tricia and when they find articles belonging to missing persons in her possession, they suspect Tricia is a serial killer.




The riddle careens into an even more cryptic conundrum when Daniel re-materializes, disoriented, terrified, amnesiac, and wearing the same clothes as when he disappeared half a decade earlier. A menacing, bloody fury accompanies Daniel when he returns to recover from his ordeal at home. As the force manifests a dark presence, it sucks Callie, Daniel and Tricia into a morbid maelstrom of doom.

Absentia is an outstanding independent effort, exquisitely well-produced on a small budget. Devoid of tired formulas, the overall feel of the production is one of form following function. In the recent tradition of the best non-Tinseltown horror projects in its class, Absentia is dark, ponderous, and unnerving,


Absentia is devoid of cliches, stereotypes and over-exposed actors, making it fresh and unique. Performances are solid and credible. Creative camerawork immerses us in the story from the perspective of its protagonists. Absentia's sophisticated tension is free from the typical splatter and nudity of conventional horror movies, putting it in the rare category of fright films which are all-ages appropriate while maintaining a scary, hard edge.





Lady Pam De GraffBURNING BRIGHT (2010)
WRITTEN BY: David Higgins, Christine Coyle Johnson, Julie Prendiville Roux
DIRECTED BY: Carlos Brooks
FEATURING: Garret Dillahunt, Briana Evigan, Charlie Tahan, Peggy Sheffield, Mary Rachel Dudley, Tom Nowicki
PLOT: A woman is trapped in a house with a ravenous tiger during a hurricane which occurs during an earthqauke and a solar eclipse. Nah, only kidding. It's just the tiger and a hurricane.


COMMENTS: With its title borrowed from William Blake's poem, "The Tyger," Burning Bright is both an unusual film and an unlikely candidate for being an effective horror movie. Surprisingly, it's pretty good!

Twenty--something Kelly (Evigan) tries to enroll her young autistic brother in a special school so she will be free to accept a college scholarship, but her recently deceased mother's deadbeat boyfriend (Dillahunt) has looted her mother's savings. He wants to turn their Florida homestead into a safari bed-and-breakfast. He blew Kelly's inheritance on a Bengal tiger to serve as the preserve's showpiece attraction.



Next thing you know, a major hurricane sweeps over the peninsula, and Kelly finds herself alone with her brother in the large family home. Well, almost alone. It seems the newly acquired tiger is somehow in the house with them, and the deceased mom's boyfriend is AWOL. But before he left, the boyfriend had the house boarded-up to weather-out the hurricane.

REALLY boarded up. By the time Kelly and her little brother realize that there's a ravenous tiger roaming the hallways, they discover they can't break out of the house.

Captive, like animals in a cage, Kelly and her handicapped ward, who exhibits a profoundly damnable lack of self-preservation instinct, struggle and scheme to keep one step ahead of the very ornery, very hungry and determined Bengal. While Burning Bright's storyline is a tad improbable, it's suitably exciting and suspenseful enough for us to suspend disbelief.

Amazingly, the filmmakers pull of their concept successfully. The action carries off the premise. It works! I watched this movie with friends and while we all groaned at some obvious bone-head moves the characters make while trying to survive the night, we were nevertheless riveted to the screen from start to finish.

The scenario offers well-conceived twists and turns to deliver plenty of nail-biting, seat-squirming thrills, while the action shots are superbly presented, delightfully claustrophobic, and colorfully photographed with cohesively consistent, visual design elements. Burning Bright offers a unique optical footprint, and it is a memorably horrifying, offbeat entry in the thriller genre.

Performances are all reasonably convincing, and include an uncredited Meatloaf as the Big Cat broker at the start of the film. But the real stars of the show are Katie. Schicka, and Kismet the three Bengals cast in the role of "the Tiger," Kinetic, physically expressive, with a slick repertoire of facial expressions and tricks, the tiger trio is a real show-stealer, and frankly, I was quite impressed by their acting. I hope they got their number 10-sized cans of Fancy Feast for their contribution to the film. Which leads me to question, why aren't MY cats bringing home the bacon as stars of a major motion picture?




You can also stream this movie from Amazon Here!

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