As that well-known horror movie critic Tom Petty used to say, “The waiting is the hardest part.”
If this is true, then The Abandoned, a slow-burning haunted house puzzler co-written and directed by Spain’s Nacho Cerdá, will certainly test the patience of the average viewer.
My advice is to stick with it. Cerdá, a confident visual stylist, has constructed an eerie, alluring tableau frozen in time that awaits to snatch up the twin sibling protagonists who are curious about where they came from.
American film producer Marie Jones (Anastasia Hille) returns to her homeland of Russia at the behest of a lawyer (Valentin Ganev). Once arrived, she’d informed that her long-lost birth mother has been found, the victim of a 40-year-old homicide.
Marie inherits the decrepit family farm, vacant since the time of the killing. The cursed dirt patch is in the middle of Nowherezistan, surrounded on three sides by a river, with a rickety bridge serving as the only point of access.
It’s here that she’s reunited with her long-lost twin brother Nicolai (Karel Roden), shortly before the trap springs shut.
Much of The Abandoned‘s 99-minute running time is spent establishing that there is apparently no escape from this damned farm, as Marie and her brother test every available route.
To be fair, this does get a little monotonous. But Cerdá’s meticulous metamorphosis of the farmhouse, from ruined wreck to a vengeful living thing, that never meant for the twins to leave in the first place, is masterful.
My patience was rewarded; your mileage may vary.