J Simpson’s review published on Letterboxd:
Three horror movies for the second day of OHMC, going strong and steady.
This arthouse thriller started off shaky, looking like some b-grade student flick made for HBO or something. There was something in the production of the first 5 minutes, but it ironed out and the fourth wall was re-established, allowing me to fall under Mike Flanagan's spell.
Absentia has a simple but very effective premise. Two sisters, one missing husband. Danny's been missing for 7 years, and Tricia (Courtney Bell) is about to have him legally declared dead. Around this time, she begins having visions of her husband as a vengeful spirit.
What could be overdone - a trite trope - instead is genuinely creepy and unsettling. First of all, Flanagan works wonders in the netherworld between reality and fantasy. It's unclear how much is a guilty psychology or if there's something supernatural going on. I feel like the best horror usually plays with this duality to some degree.
The tension saves this movie from itself, which has far, far too many padding scenes of jogging and atmospheric build. It's a tricky ratio to balance, as i rather enjoyed Flanagan's pointless scenes of dread, contributing to the whole, so i didn't mind that there were utterly pointless scenes. There were just A LOT of them.
All in all, the exploration of the subterranean world beneath this one is a creepy and compelling subject that I would like to see explored more thoroughly. Also, bonus points to Flanagan for never coming out of the shadows, letting the terrors malinger in yr imagination, where they can do the most deadly damage.