Liz (Erin Wray), 7 months pregnant, lives with her husband, Rick (Eric Matheny)and wakes up discover that her unborn child mysteriously disappeared overnight. Doctors at the hospital have no clear-cut explanation as to why Liz's fetus vanished, but they, along with the police and neighbors, suspect that Liz and Rick are culpable. To help Liz overcome her grief and find some tranquility, Liz's younger brother, Evan (Ryan Smale), and Rick persuade her to join them for a retreat at a secluded mountainside cabin belonging to Liz's aunt. Liz still has no recollection of the night that her unborn child disappeared. Evan uses his digital video camera to film their retreat as part of his film school assignment. He flirts with a sexy woman, Megan (Stephanie Scholz) at a grocery store and briefly becomes her boyfriend. Many strange events transpire, including an intruder inside the cabin and a bright light that repeatedly shows up outside in the distance.
Writer/director Jimmy Loweree and co-writer Jake Moreno deserve kudos for taking a seemingly simple premise for a horror/thriller and turning it into a complex story that's concurrently hair-raising, chilling and riveting. They also leave some room for interpretation. Are strange occurrences natural or supernatural? Is the intruder human or an alien? What does the intruder want? What does all of this have to do with the disappearance of Liz's fetus to begin with? What does Megan know and is there perhaps more to her than meets the eye? Is it all perhaps an illusion? The answers aren't completely spelled out and spoon-fed to the audience, so the burden of piecing everything together lies with you as an intelligent audience member.
Unlike recent unscary horror films like The Purge, Sinister and Mama, Absence gets under your skin and there's virtually no exposition to be found here. You're actually required to think critically, to pay close attention to the nuances and small details, and to often use your imagination, a very powerful, underused tool. Blink and you'll miss the brief appearance of the distant bright light in one of the scenes. Moreover, the performances by everyone feel natural and organic which makes the tension much more palpable because it all feels so real. Admittedly, though, the first 10 minutes or so of film include so much shaky-cam that it will cause slight nausea until the camera settles down a bit and you get used to the shakiness when it does arrive again. The same could have been said for The Blair Witch Project which would make for a great double feature with this film. Essentially, Absence is Close Encounters of the Third Kind meets The Blair Witch Project. It will scare the living daylights out of you.
Just Like a Woman