31 Days of Hell: The Abandoned (2006) - Reviewed

The tagline of
The Abandoned must be the most unassuming iceberg tip in the history of horror cinema – Death never runs out of time. This is but a small fraction of the perdition The Abandoned hurls us into.

Session 9 writer/ director Brad Anderson mentioned in an interview that not all horror is born out of fear; that sometimes it evolves out of a sense of dread. That very notion is the primary drive behind this 2006 offering by director Nacho Cerdà. 

There have been a few films by the same name, but only this particular horror masterpiece carries the true terror of unsated murder by the cogs in the fate wheel. Yes, The Abandoned is drenched in dread, and like Session 9, it feeds on the nightmare quality of an inescapable situation. 

Although the film relies on our fear of being trapped and helpless, it is by no means limited to just anxiety as a weapon. In fact, its other facets play on the downright treacherous and demonic nature of years of iniquitous festering vindictiveness. In other words, it pushes the fear thrill well beyond the pleasure button of supernatural horror fans.

Starring the inimitable Czech actor Karel Roden (Hellboy, A Lonely Place to Die) and British actress Anastasia Hille (The Hole (2001) and 2012’s Snow White and the Huntsman), the entire film is centered around two paternal twins, separated and adopted as infants by different families. 

Hille plays Marie, raised in England while her long lost twin brother Nicolai (Roden) was raised in Russia. The two only meet for the first time when they inherit their decrepit childhood home in the Russian countryside…and this is where the dread starts seeping in like a flooding septic tank. It is not the house as much as what has been waiting there for forty years for the babies to come home.

One of the pleasures of The Abandoned is that it breaks away from the usual clichés, using middle-aged characters to bring validity and realism to a frightening environment that isolates them, not only from the outside landscapes, but from their own reason. The house is alive with evil, slowly consuming the confused twins as it gradually grows stronger with the impending arrival of their 42nd birthday.

Shot on location in Russia, The Abandoned has a genuinely horrific feel to it. Set design deliberately presents a third world, deserted milieu that lends to the abandoned vibe of the isolated farmhouse. Lighting and effects are excellent, efficiently drawing us into a malicious lonely world where time stands still, frozen in fear of what dwells in the crumbling walls behind the rolling mist. 

What brings the best scares in The Abandoned, however, are the wandering remnants of the twins’ past, menacing doppelgangers out to – well, that is anybody’s guess. Their intentions are one of the mysteries of the house, but it is obvious that the threat increases proportionately to the advent of the twins’ birthday. 

Elements of dread, recurring and inescapable loops, upsetting flashbacks and a lingering darkness that leads to a potent climax all make up a wonderfully tense horror film that works on so many levels.

Perfect for lovers of strange physics, violent pasts and downright creepy haunting phenomena, The Abandoned invites you to a birthday party from hell, and you had better attend, because it has no problem waiting for decades to see you again.

-Tasha Danzig