Schlocktoberfest #28: The Abandoned
Is there such a thing as destiny? In The Abandoned, by Spanish director Nacho Cerdà, it possibly cannot be escaped. A middle-aged woman who was orphaned at birth, and raised by a Russian family who found her bloody mother in a work truck, cradling her twins- seeks out her past, but sometimes that is one rock you don’t want to peer under.
Marie (Anastasia Hille, RKO 281, The Hole) is a professional middle-aged woman who looks sharp as she shows up at the Russian lawyer’s office, where he is settling the estate of her birth parents. How he found her is unknown, but she has inherited their farm, deep in the Russian wilderness. She hires a man with a sturdy truck to take her there; he tells her the locals call the place “the island,” for it is surrounded by a wide river, and is only reachable by bridge.
At first we are taken in by the vast expanse of the Russian wilderness, as she makes her way to the farmhouse, which is oddly surrounded on all sides by a river. And she cannot swim. The truck driver who takes her there disappears in the night, as he walks off to show her the farm, and when she follows him, she falls into the river. By luck she is rescued by her lost twin brother, who was also brought here by a lawyer handling the inheritance. Odd that he didn’t tell them about each other, no?
The mysteries deepen, and the river is not the only thing that is circular. She and her brother were found by local farmers, as their mother escaped with them in a truck; the mother died of stab wounds, and as they explore the house, its violent past is replayed. Two white-eyed zombie doppelgangers of Marie and her brother appear, and it is unclear what they want, but one thing does come clear- they cannot leave the estate, and the ghosts of their past insist that they were meant to perish as children, all those years ago.
Like Jacob’s Ladder, we are unsure what is reality and what is hallucination, or is it all perhaps the moment before death? It manages a fine setting of mood and some excellent visuals, but it goes past its obvious ending, full circle, and continues further- either to fill out running time, or explain things Silent Hill-style when leaving it for us to decide would have been the wiser choice. It’s a creepy and compelling ghost story that should have continued to show and not tell.