Directed by Spencer Squire.
Starring Emma Roberts, John Gallagher Jr., Michael Shannon, Kate Arrington, Addy Miller, Paul Dillon, Justin Matthew Smith, and Paul Schneider.
After a young couple moves into a remote farmhouse with their infant son, the woman’s struggles with postpartum psychosis begin to intensify… as the house reveals secrets of its own.
I will give Abandoned for one thing: it’s not afraid to break all logic from the beginning as depressed mom Sara (an unconvincing Emma Roberts, albeit tough to blame her given the stale haunted house material) shows no concerns when the realtor mentions that the farmhouse they are about to move into bore witness to a suicide and double homicide four decades ago. No, she announces that she’s not afraid of a bit of spookiness, moving in with her partner Alex (John Gallagher Jr.) and a relatively newborn baby.
One would think this would allow the script from Erik Patterson and Jessica Scott to skip some of the uncovering secrets preamble, but Abandoned doesn’t deviate from the PG-13 hallucinations and jump scares blueprint. If anything, the inevitable feels longer delayed.
That problem also falls on director Spencer Squire (a supporting character actor turned first-time filmmaker, mysteriously left off the IMDb page for the movie as of this writing), who only has a bland concept for dissecting motherhood and mother/infant relationships. Having a baby was supposed to fix everything, as people often say, but Sara is still depressed and doesn’t feel much of a connection with her baby formula preferring child. In cliché fashion, Sara is left home alone for extended periods while Alex chases farming work, eventually dealing with a curious case of ill pigs with arcs and conclusions that also relate to parenthood.
During this time, Sara becomes distracted, investigating the tragic history from 40 years ago while also noticing similarities between her and the murdered mother, especially when trying on clothing from her wardrobe. Naturally, Sara also begins experiencing visions of the attackers, one by one, piecing together what is frankly a simple puzzle. None of the sequences are necessarily shot with tension and suspense, opting for aggressively loud noises that leave no impression. Furthermore, as Sara becomes more like the deceased, Alex eventually begins to notice her behavior which he believes is psychosis.
The one bright spot here is Michael Shannon as the closest thing to a neighbor (the overqualified performer is clearly only here as a favor to Spencer Squire after he recently worked with him on a sports drama), injecting some unsettling energy into the proceedings. It’s also obvious where his character arc is going and why he is seemingly so attached to the house and its new owners, but he is delivering a solid turn expressing grief. The conversations between his character and Sara are the only engaging aspect here.
So it’s safe to say you can abandon Abandoned unless you enjoy cheap and lame spectral horror that is more noisy than intellectually stimulating (which is a shame given it wants to tackle compelling themes such as mental illness, medication, and motherhood).
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com