SPOILERII IN PRESENTIA
Is crowdfunding the way forward for financing movies? Asking for contributions online, and you get a thanks in the end credits when the film's finally made. It's not going to be the new business model for the major studios but there's probably no reason why very low budgets can't be built up this way for shorts or small independent features. If the donations exceed the target then the end result might even be a tad better, and if the film ends up as unreleasable rubbish then at least no individual backer has lost a huge amount of investment in the process. Presumably there's some mechanism in place to ensure that some unscrupulous crook doesn't crowdfund a non-existent film and immediately jet off to Acapulco with the loot, but that aside it looks to be a nice idea.
Absentia was partly funded on the Kickstarter website and, according to the IMDb, they raised $25,000 in a month towards the production. Good for them. The end result isn't anywhere near a masterpiece but as a very low-key, naturalistic domestic chiller it does manage to rustle up some nicely creepy moments. Dropout and former addict Callie (Katie Parker) returns to her pregnant sister Tricia's (Courtney Bell) house to be there when the child arrives. Tricia's husband Daniel disappeared seven years ago and she's on the point of having him declared dead in absentia - but on that very day he suddenly shows up again. Where has he been? How has he survived? And what has it to do with the underpass tunnel just across the road?
There are no big names in the cast, no elaborate special effects except for some unsettling spectral visions early on, and no action set pieces - one long dialogue scene consists entirely of a flat two-shot from a locked-off camera - but the film certainly has tension to spare, particularly when Callie is trying to investigate Daniel's disappearance as well as numerous others from the area. Few of us have fought vampires or been chased around by zombies, but most of us have walked through a creepy underpass at some point so there's a natural recognition there, and the locale and characters all feel entirely real.
However, they're also pretty difficult to empathise with very much, so you don't really care that much about what happens. Nevertheless, Absentia has its well-placed scares and jumps, and it does a good job in conjuring up an atmosphere of quiet and plausible horror with an unusual semi-explanation at the back of it and a pleasingly bleak ending. At the micro end of the budget scale you're not going to get gloss and slickness: it's shot on raw HD and it probably wouldn't look too good blown up to a cinema screen, but on DVD (its natural home) it's nicely unnerving and spooky.