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The first time Director Mike Flanagan fell into my periphere, was when I watched his 2013 feature film, Oculus (admittedly this had a lot to do with its star Karen Gillan) and was blown away by his vision. 

I’ve been a huge fan of his work ever since and watched every one of his movies and tv shows preceding this.

There was however, one glaring omission from this modern auteur’s work that I had neglected and that is the subject of this retrospective… Absentia.

Now celebrating 10 years since its initial release I intended to remedy that error and I’m thankful to say that I wasn’t disappointed.

Despite its minimalist approach due to an admittedly refined budget, Flanagan proves his mastery even at this early stage of his career, weaving in a supernatural tale that chills and mystifies. These traits are all too familiar to Flanagan’s craft and have perfected over time.

Absentia’s tale is a tangled one that lures you into its obscurity and ensnares you, much like its subject; a tunnel or underpass at the end of a typical suburban street.

The conundrum presented could sit perfectly in the canon of Twilight Zone tales, where we are presented with a pregnant woman, Tricia (Courtney Bell) whose husband, Daniel (Morgan Peter Brown), has been missing for seven years. With the period of time that has passed, Tricia can now declare Daniel, dead in absentia and finally out things to rest and potentially settle down with her new partner, Det. Mallory (Dave Levine).
She is joined at this time by Daniel’s younger sister, Callie (an excellent Katie Parker), a former drug addict and estranged from her family.

All is not as it seems however, as Tricia begins to have hallucinations of Daniel in her house, and Callie has a strange encounter with a “homeless” man (played by the always sublime Doug Jones) in the afore-mentioned tunnel. These strange events push Callie back into her drug use again, and the paranoia and anxiety rises to the surface, as she’s convinced that someone has broken into the house.

So, when Daniel suddenly returns one day, everything gets flipped upside down and inside out, starts a chain of oddities, leading each of the characters down a path of no return.

For me, Absentia has cemented my admiration of Flanagan’s films. It was a reward to see how his style and creativity began to formulate. And even though it is in its most simplistic form, all the hallmarks of his work are evident.
Most importantly, Flanagan is a storyteller, first and foremost. A man who is able to tap into the imagination, creating worlds that are finely incubated, and the fact that he has grown in stature over the years is a testament to his ability in this field.

If like me, Absentia, has missed you by, I highly recommend giving it your time.

Currently screening on Shudder Australia.

  • Saul Muerte

Related links:

Mike Flanagan hits 3 horror home runs in 2016 – pt1: Hush

Mike Flanagan hits 3 horror home runs in 2016 – pt2: Ouija: Origin of Evil

Mike Flanagan hits 3 horror home runs in 2016 – pt3: Before I Wake

Gerald’s Game

Movie review: Doctor Sleep

Series review: The Haunting of Hill House S1