1. Absentia – 2011 (Mike Flanagan)
The one movie that shows what’s wrong with the industry. It cost $70,000 to make, which basically means that all you have to do is distribute it and you are guaranteed to make money and no one has figured that out. Mike Flanagan funded the film on Kickstarter, which is insane. His short film Oculus had already made the rounds in festivals and showed that he could make one room, a monologue and a mirror frightening. This guy is too talented to have to sing for his supper.
Numbers aside, Absentia is flat-out brilliant. It combines originality with great performances, it is very rewatchable, it features constant twists and turns and it is most importantly, scary.
Tricia (Courtney Bell) is finally ready to move on with her life after her husband Daniel has been missing for seven years. She is pregnant with a new boyfriend, is reconnected with her charismatic sister Callie (Katie Parker). It comes time to legally declare David in absentia, and right when she starts to consider it, she starts to see visions of him.
She ignores them, upon the advice of her therapist. She signs the paperwork. She takes steps to move forward with her life – and then her husband reappears suddenly.
He is alive, but too traumatized to talk. His body shows the signs of extended torture, and he remains convinced that something is after him, something that lives in a nearby tunnel. The only clue he is able to communicate is a figure in a well-known children’s story. And one day he gone is gone again, and the key to all of this is Callie, whether she knows it or not.
I really struggled about revealing any of the plot. The moment where the husband comes back shocked me worse than nearly any film on the list, and it wasn’t even a horror moment. I don’t want to spoil the film, but this film deserves so much more credit than its gotten, in fact all these films do.
Hope you enjoyed the list, feel free to include stuff you think I left out or debate the choices. I certainly will.