It’s a shame when a film’s ending nullifies the preceding hour-plus worth of content, but such are my feelings on Eytan Rockaway’s The Abandoned. I was engaged for most of the its entirety, chilled by the stony isolation of a dilapidated luxury building. Atmosphere and tension go a long way towards the end of Act I and an eerily haunting Act II, but an Act III ending jumps into a realm that simply doesn’t have to be addressed. There’s an extension into a more personal story, one that throws away horror for something more human – more affecting – yet it’s one of the film’s major downfalls. Rockaway pulls the rug out from unsuspecting horror fans in this moment, jumping ship in a way that’s neither emotional, nor powerfully satisfying.
Louisa Krause stars as Julia Streak, a rookie night watchwoman who’s about to spend her first night on the job. The building she’s set to watch is an old luxury residence loaded with lavish decor and tremendous amenities, but since it was never finished, the structure just exists as a hollow failure. Nonetheless, Julia is paid to patrol the halls to keep vagrants out, while her partner, Cooper (Jason Patric), monitors the security cameras. But the empty building has a way of getting into people’s heads, and as Julia explores the vacant rooms, she begins to hear voices the lead to a sealed metal door. Think she opens it?
OF COURSE SHE DOES. C’mon, do you even watch horror movies, bro?
It’s worth mentioning that Cooper’s movement is restricted by his wheelchair, which adds a little more danger to the whole ordeal. Julia is forced to explore most empty rooms by herself, as Cooper watches from a nifty headset camera that shows her direct POV. No need to get nervous, though – Rockaway stays away from found-footage generics given Julia’s recording device. Instead, the filmmaker builds a cavernous construct that’s inherent with foreboding tension. Each room is a wide-open, dimly lit source of grandeur, and set design goes a long way in sending chills up our spine. Rockaway and cinematographer Zack Galler capture isolation at its most unnerving, building a strong foundation through each visual conquest.
The story itself, written by Rockaway and Ido Fluk, works for the haunted house approach that’s sought out – it’s just the film’s ending that halts momentum to a gloomy standstill. Otherwise, Julie’s inaugural night is a spooky endeavor that hits all the notes that an invasive paranormal thriller should, even if it doesn’t rewrite the history books.
Night vision reveals unmentionables that our characters can’t immediately see, lights flicker at random, and internal paranoias blur reality, but it’s all charged by a noticeable fear found in Louisa Krause’s leading performance. Patric is more the annoyed, wise-cracking partner, wanting to just drink his way through the night, but Krause embraces the chaos, and pushes forward anxiously. It’s your typical “WHY IS SHE GOING DOWN THE PITCH-BLACK HALLWAY ALONE” material, but Rockaway crafts each encounter with tension in mind, and delivers said product.
This brings us to the film’s ending, which would leave a much different impression if the final five minutes (or so) were stricken from the record. I get it – The Abandoned doesn’t WANT to simply be another creepy story, and attempts something weightier. Something with more humanity. A movie that possesses a message and wallops you at the end with an unforeseen conclusion. These are the things I wanted to feel, but twisted realizations only turned into questions, uncertainty, and an ending that’s far too jarring for the film’s initial buildup. Suitable scares turn into an emotional barrage that rewrites the entirety of Rockaway’s work, and while ambition is surely an enviable quality, it spells doom for what could have been a passable thriller.
I’ll leave you with this: The Abandoned is a horror movie that should be watched by fans who enjoy a good structural haunt, but just know that the ending will not work for all audiences. It’s worth the test in my eyes, because not everyone will agree with my assessment. Nor should they. Some people may fall in love with the more heartfelt ending, and for them, Rockaway’s mystique should provide a warm embrace. But others, like me, will only be left with the taste of an off-putting finale, and its lingering taste as the credits role.
The Abandoned is a steadfast and creepy haunted flick, until the final five minutes sink the entire production. It'll work for some, but sadly not for most.