Eytan Rockaway makes his feature-length debut with the horror-thrilling The Abandoned (aka The Confined). It stars Louisa Krause as Julia Streak, who everyone calls by her last name. Desperate to prove she can hold a job, so she can keep custody of her daughter, she takes a position as a night security guard for a long-abandoned, formerly very chic apartment complex. She’s then introduced to the other night guard, the surly Cooper (Jason Patric), who is not much for small talk.
As she does her rounds on the various floors of the never-finished building, Streak believes she sees and hears things. It turns out it is just Cooper messing with her… until it isn’t. She discovers an abandoned portion of the complex and the horrible secrets that lie within. Said secrets live beyond the mortal realm and seek to kill both guards now that the truth has been discovered. Can Streak and Cooper escape with their lives, or are they doomed?
Rockaway proves to be a master of atmosphere as he crafts an engaging and thrilling mystery. The Abandoned largely abandons jump scares in favor of slow-building tension and mounting terror. Up until the final few minutes (more on that later), the tightly wound story and intimate character study (there’s maybe five people altogether; six at best) is a creepy thrill ride that will keep audiences on the edge of their seats.
“…secrets live beyond the mortal realm and seek to kill both guards…”
In large part, this is thanks to Giacomo Ambrosini and Daniel Hahn’s sublime editing. They deftly move between the two guards, with Cooper located in the main security room watching the monitors and Streak trapped in various parts of the building and the eerie happenings taking place on the barely visible edges of the frame. It’s a highwire act, as Ido Fluk’s screenplay is still an intimate character piece. Luckily, it works, as Rockaway keeps the plates spinning so that each element enhances the other one.
But really, the key to the film’s success are the two leads. Jason Patric, who was so intense in Narc (yes, that is my go-to Patric movie, come at me!), is fantastic here. He makes the no-nonsense and stern character still empathetic and even likable, which is hard considering his dickish behavior early on. Louisa Krause, the star of one of the greatest demonic possession films of all time (Ava’s Possessions, watch it ASAP, thank me later), proves that she deserves to be a household name. She portrays Streak’s love for the opulence of the apartment complex believably, while her need to reconnect with her daughter and prove she’s a good mother in a realistic way that grounds the supernatural proceedings.
However, The Abandoned isn’t all gorgeous set design and brilliant acting. Sadly, the script, from a story idea by Fluk and Rockaway, is lacking in a rather big way: the ending does not work. Obviously, no spoilers, but at the risk of being vague, the way the narrative ties its threads together is predictable if one has seen the works of Brad Anderson or known of the Raw Feed release Sublime (along with several other horror titles). Moreover, it is unsatisfying, mainly because the story does not track the character arcs in a way that brings emotional catharsis. In theory, this ending should work. However, the veneer of the apartment complex needs to crack sooner so that the twists and revelations of the denouement have time to be processed and accepted by the audience.
But still, despite these last-minute missteps, The Abandoned works much more often than not. The apartment complex at the center of the story is beautiful, and Rockaway directs with an assured eye and a confident command of tone. It is an anxiety-inducing production that is bolstered by the astounding performances of Patric and Krause. While the ending is weak, two-thirds of the film works so wonderfully it is still worth watching.
"…gorgeous set design and brilliant acting."