If anyone was wondering what happened to the eighth film in the Eight Films to Die For series, wonder no more; The Abandoned, the film that was apparently voted “Audience Favorite” by fans, has finished its theatrical run and now joins its seven brethren on DVD.
The Abandoned opens with an out of control vehicle careening onto the property of a rural Russian family. The driver, a bloodied young woman, is dead, but, much to the surprise of their rescuers, a pair of infant twins has survived the crash.
Forty years later, Marie Jones (Hille), one of the twins (who has grown up to be a successful film producer in Hollywood), has returned to Russia after being informed that not only has the identity of her birth mother been discovered, but she has also inherited her property – a long abandoned and predictably remote farm house. Marie wants to learn more about her mother, and decides to make the trek to the rundown home in spite of the inhospitable locals discouraging stories about the place.
When Marie and her hired driver arrive at the house, they get separated, and the driver flees. Marie chases after him, falls into the icy river that surrounds the house, and nearly drowns. Lucky for her (or not), she’s not alone after all, as Nikolai (Roden), a man who claims to be her twin brother, saves her life. Nikolai tells her that, he, too, has been searching for the true identity of his birth parents and that the same lawyer who contacted Marie also contacted him. At first, Marie doesn’t believe him as the lawyer made no mention of a sibling, but, as the two begin to share terrifying experiences in the house, their past and present become intertwined, and their familial bond proves to be tragically undeniable.
The Abandoned is equal parts ghost story and psychological horror, with zombie-style apparitions, flesh-eating hogs, and the sort of nightmare logic that makes stories like these work despite themselves. While I wouldn’t consider it the best of the Eight Films to Die For (that would be “The Gravedancers”, thank you very much), This is probably the most polished of the festival’s offerings, with a complex and sophisticated plot, solid performances from its two leads, and a “Holy Shit!” ending that makes the ride worthwhile despite a few awkward bumps and unnecessary detours.
The DVD from Lionsgate is surprisingly lacking in the special features department, especially seeing as how this was the “fan favorite” and all. We get a really short making-of featurette, but, save for a few trailers, nothing else. Even the worst entry in this series (the abysmal “Dark Ride”) got a better DVD treatment than this film, but I’m sure that will be remedied down the road if this one finds a big enough audience.
If you can get past the somewhat slow build-up, The Abandoned rewards with some nifty scares and a novel take on what, at first, seems like a well-trodden theme. Fans of lightning fast edits and over-the-top bloodbaths should probably steer clear, but folks looking for a well-made and clever bit of mind-fucking could do worse than to check this one out.