A scene from AbsentiaIt’s often a disservice to a film to build too much anticipation or hype before a screening because regardless of how good it is, it will never be as good as one imagines it could have been. Absentia was hyped to be the scariest film to show at this year’s Toronto After Dark Film Festival. That’s a lot to live up to – especially with this audience.

Tricia’s (Courtney Bell) husband, Daniel (Morgan Peter Brown), disappeared without a trace seven years ago. With no new evidence or any indication he started a new life elsewhere, she is finally able to declare him legally dead and move on with her life. Her free-spirited sister Callie (Katie Parker) comes to stay with Tricia to help her through the transition as well as her advanced pregnancy care of a secret romance. But as the paperwork comes closer to completion, Tricia begins to see Daniel and Callie encounters a sinister force that has taken an interest in their family.

This film has great atmosphere that carries through until the end. Each time they show “the tunnel”, a sense of dread rises (although most unlit tunnels have this effect, especially on women). Nonetheless, it’s very clear from the start that that is where evil lives. The monstrous appearances of Daniel are disturbing and even shocking in one instance. On the other hand, the build up around the emergence of the evil creature is excellent, while its actual form is less intimidating – it was almost better off remaining an ominous form instead of taking any sort of shape.

The actors have a convincing grasp on what it looks like to be frightened; Brown is particularly believable in his roles as both the victim and the tormenter. The abductions in the picture are very well structured, adequately building the menace then focusing on the fear of the victim. The simple children’s story of a monster dwelling under a bridge is expanded and made real, while also presenting a reasonable amount of character development and back story. As caring for the sufferers is key to the success of a horror movie, this attention to the film’s personalities contributes to its achievements.

When it comes to horror movies, scary and creepy are not synonymous. And while Absentia is definitely creepy, it wasn’t as scary as it had been made out to be, which was unfortunate because it made early reviews harsher than the film deserved.

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