What I'm Watching: The Abandoned
Oh, The Abandoned...
This movie wheels out two of my least favourite horror movie tropes, smashes them into one, and ends up ruining a perfectly good setup.
The story revolves around Julia, a young mother struggling to keep her child, and on her way to start a new job, her last chance to do that. See, Julia has a history of mental problems, and is not the most well-adjusted character out there. But, to her credit, she's trying.
She's got a job as an overnight security guard for an abandoned building, and we go through the usual introductions of telling her the rules, meeting her grumpy coworker, and checking the large structure out.
The movie does a decent job of setup, and you spend just enough time on her first night getting the lay of the land. It feels natural, and goes on juust long enough to get you antsy, but not frustrated. I felt like I was in for a good ride, as the movie was stradling that line between anticipation and frustration very well. It also helped that Jason Patric's role as her coworker who has been there forever, has seen kids come and go, and is Just So Sick of the latest kid to come in and will probably be bored and gone in a week, is a lot of fun, and drives a lot of the tension for the first third of the movie. The interplay between him and Louisa Krause is fun, and solid, and keeps things interesting.
Eventually, as must happen in these movies, things start to get weird. Julia sees a spot not on the cameras, tries to get them working, and investigates the abandoned section of the building that was supposedly never finished. Down there, she finds a gigantic metal doorway, locked up for who knows how long, and after awhile, she gets the door open, because the plot must move forward.
Julia goes exploring behind the door, finding a huge, abandoned tunnel system, that leads to several rooms that look like some people were kept there, long ago, and things didn't end well.
The spookiness continues, as we see glimpses of deformed ghost children, and Julia skadoots out of there, despite being lost in the tunnels moments before. She does research on the building they're in, and finds a YouTube video about a group of children that were kept down there, and died horribly.
Oh, and along the way, we find out that she's always been able to hear voices and sense things, which doctors decided were signs of mental problems, and put her on anti-psychotics.
She resumes her investigations in the abandoned tunnels, finds a kindly ghost boy, who explains things further to her, and drops the line of, "All the children died...except one!"
So yeah, the movie is CLEARLY telegraphing that Julia was one of these special children, and she's the one that got away, and the kids left behind are not happy at all that she escapes. Now that she's back, the revenging can begin.
Eventually, she meets another ghost kid, a girl, GEE WHO COULD SHE BE??, and tries to save her from drowning in the tainted cistern of water that caused all these kids' deformities. Cooper saves her, at the cost of his own life, but when she heads back to the Big Metal Door, it's been closed and locked behind her, leaving her trapped forever.
We cut to a hospital, and oh good, she must have been saved after who knows how long, and is recovering, and we're gonna get a tag wrapping everything up!
BUT OH NO, if only it were that simple. Her monitors start beeping, she dies, and the doctor presiding over her turns to his colleagues and drops the biggest bombshell of the movie, "This patient has been with us since 1983, stuck in a coma all this time..."
Oh ho yes, the movie went there. THE ENTIRE MOVIE WAS A DREAM.
*flips over tables and sets them on fire*
Cooper, the grumpy security guard? Really her father, keeping watch over her. Her daughter is just a doll from her childhood that she's got sitting next to her. It's like the evil thriller version of The Wizard of Oz. You were there, and you, and the terrible hospital food was there... It sounds like I'm joking, but I'm serious about the food.
So yep, an entire movie spent that is really just the final thoughts of a person dying who's been in a coma since 1983.
Not only does the movie pull the IT WAS ALL A DREAM card, but it also doubles down by being a perfectly okay thriller with some decent moments, bu deciding oh no, that's not good enough. We have to be *clever*. And it completely ruins everything in the last 30 seconds, another overly common thing in horror movies. Not content with being a decent enough movie, let's throw in a twist to really spice things up!
NO STOP THAT. If it's not a *really good twist* then just...just don't. Be okay with being an entertaining thriller. Trying to elevate things beyond your reach so rarely works, it's not worth the trouble. I would've gladly given this movie a mild recommendation for being an inoffensive little flick, but then it goes and invalidates the entire plot, just to try and be creative.
Amusingly enough, the DVD also has an alternate ending, which actually manages to be *worse* because Cooper is just another patient. Making him be her father in the final cut at least brings some heart to it, and explains his role in her mind.
To be fair, it IS an interesting way to unfold a story of who this girl is, why she's got a lumpy face, and why this has all happened to her, but it is not a storytelling device I am ever interested in.
If you ignore the final moments, it's decent enough, and worth some time on Netflix, but otherwise avoid a movie that just...just no. Abandon "The Abandoned".
...Hey wait. If you've been in a coma for 30+ years...HOW DO YOU KNOW YOUTUBE?!