One for the bad-first-days-on-the-job file, Eytan Rockaway’s familiar horror film The Abandoned stars Louisa Krause as a single mother who, lest she lose custody of her young daughter, takes on an assignment patrolling an empty apartment complex.
Two guards oversee the palatial residence at all times: one on patrol, the other monitoring security-cam footage. Eye-in-the-sky duties belong to Cooper (Jason Patric), whose creepy behavior would have long ago gotten him fired by any reputable establishment (or at least one with an on-site HR rep). Built during a bygone real estate boom, the unfinished, all-inclusive residence is now empty save for homeless folks seeking shelter and a few restless spirits. (You know, the usual.)
Writer-director Rockaway loads early scenes with familiar horror signifiers — there’s a storm coming, everyone keeps warning Streak (Krause), and the communication equipment linking one guard to the other is famously unreliable. Our heroine spends a lot of time meandering through abandoned quadrants lit only by her dim flashlight, asking if anyone’s there; presumably she’s addressing the living, but it’s a different kind of transient that answers.
This setup is not unlike Fear, that early-2000s reality show in which twentysomethings were ferried to supposedly haunted locations and forced to walk around in the dark with p.o.v. cameras. The Abandoned lacks the show’s lo-fi charm, however. Two second-act revelations alter its tired dynamic for the better, but those changes are undone by cheap scares and a climactic revelation that’s more ho-hum than horrifying.
Directed by Eytan Rockaway
Opens January 8, IFC Center
Available on demand