‘Abandoned Dead’ is Not a Complete Waste of Time
Written By: Lois Kennedy
Director: Mark W. Curran
Cast: Sarah Nicklin, Carlos Ramirez, Robert E. Wilhelm
Rachel is a security guard with a “thing about nighttime.” Unfortunately, her boss forces her to take a night shift at the Mayfield Addiction Clinic. To top it all off, the place is in a bad neighborhood and must be defended from folks coveting the methadone inside. Rachel gamely settles in for a boring shift, but the doors opening by themselves, ominous phone calls, and corpses (both that of cats and people) take the bounce out of her step. When the lights go out, Rachel has to fight to see the dawn.
It’s low-budget, but there are plenty of competent touches. The set is appropriately decrepit and mysterious; for example there’s a wall covered in scribbled-on coloring book pages—who is that for? The makeup and fake blood effects are convincing. Sarah Nicklin as Rachel is compelling, and while most of the actors revolving around her are less than Oscar-worthy (I also enjoyed Carlos Ramirez as Detective Haggis), their screen time is blessedly limited. Most impressive of all is the cameo by Judith O’Dea from Night of the Living Dead. (It must have taken great restraint on the part of the filmmakers to abstain from “They’re coming to get you” jokes.)
The movie starts with a conventional but workable premise: woman with a dark past faces her personal demons as she faces literal demons—she discovers her inner strength and capacity for change, a life lesson is learned, et cetera. But then about halfway through, the movie stops making sense. And that momentum is carried through to twist ending that adds nothing to the film; well, nothing but Judith O’Dea. Without spoiling the movie, one of the more baffling aspects is Detective Haggis, who strolls around spouting what sounds like Beat poetry and answering pay phones (of which he sees more than one in the same night—is this a period piece?). (Though as I mentioned, I did enjoy the actor’s performance of him.) Also, a number of plot points are never explained, like how Rachel received the scars that are mentioned once and never spoke of or shown again (if they did and I missed it, please let me know).
I wouldn’t call the film scary on any level, but it has its eerie moments. Rachel and Haggis receive phone calls from a distorted voice who croaks “He’s coming, Rachel” and “She’s not saaaaafe.” Rachel sees a couple of pretty creepy ghosts.
Alas, such moments are outnumbered by long scenes of Rachel wandering the clinic for no reason and a caretaker who’s a caricature straight out of the 1950s (think Leroy from The Bad Seed). And, towards the end, one-liners—my pet peeve.
I don’t recommend it per se, but if you do watch it, turn it off after the first forty minutes or so and leave the rest to your imagination, because anything you can come up with is probably better than what actually happens.
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