Abandoned follows a young couple after the birth of their first child, Emma Roberts and John Gallagher Jr. are considering moving to the country with the help of their real estate agent Cindy (standout Kate Arrington, “Mare of Easttown”). If there is an old farmhouse worthy of an article in The New York Times’ Real Estate section, vet Alex (Gallagher) is on board.
Fans of the horror genre will recognize Abandoned’s two storytelling patterns despite its haunted home plot. There are two ways to approach this: a movie that questions whether the protagonist’s experiences are genuine or just in their head, and a movie that leaves that question hanging for the most of its running time, drawing tension from the viewer’s confusion.
It doesn’t take long for Sara to begin seeing weird images. Not only that, but when her husband is abroad working as the town veterinarian, she starts discovering old images and notes about the house’s fatal history. She discovers that a girl called Anna committed a double homicide, killing her father and then her own baby…but no additional mention of the kid is made. Sara begins to shatter and break free from reality, not just as a result of these discoveries, but also as a result of the stress of mothering a baby that doesn’t appear to like her very much.
To make it even more difficult for Sara, Alex spends lengthy periods of time away from the house (the film follows him to the farm to care for an extra-large litter of pigs), while Sara is left alone in the scary old house to try to comfort her sobbing child. In addition, the only person in the immediate area is a socially uncomfortable neighbor who knows all about the house’s history.
This psychological horror/thriller isn’t just perplexing; it’s also just plain bland, wheeling out all of the classic horror clichés without much passion. Despite having a great cast and several solid performances, the film is a disappointment overall. Unfortunately, there is little depth to the mystery in Abandoned, despite the fact that the author seems to have made an effort to incorporate the important topic of postpartum depression into the narrative. This should have been a fascinating twist, but instead it is all superficial. The situations in which the pair tries to deal with it in a way that is realistic to their situation, such as Alex making an effort to comprehend Sara’s feelings but being unsuccessful, end up being unresolved.
The narrative of the film Abandoned is one that is quite depressing overall. one in which feelings of despair and anxiety are continually at odds with one other. And in that conflict, you come out on the losing end because you continue to be troubled by both of them.
There is some good haunting imagery in “Abandoned,” but not enough to keep you up at night when the majority of the picture is really a tedious exercise in misdirection. While “Abandoned” isn’t the most awkward in its attempts to combine the psychological, the supernatural, and the truth, its resulting conclusion is a little disjointed.
I fear that there will be some horror enthusiasts who are let down by the film. The movie won’t keep anyone up at night, with the possible exception of expectant mothers, because the fear depicted is more focused on the difficulties of being a parent while also residing in a house with a troubled history, rather than the supernatural phenomenon itself.
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