The Abandon (PANIC) Is Trapped in a Room Horror Done Right
Title: The Abandon
First Non-Festival Release: TBD
Director: Jason Satterlund
Writer: Dwain Worrell
Runtime: 96 Minutes
Starring: Jonathan Rosenthal, Tamara Perry, Regis Terencio
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
This film’s review was written after its screening at the Panic Film Festival in 2022.
Just as Miles Willis (Jonathan Rosenthal) thinks he is about to succumb to a gunshot wound sustained in action he awakens in a barren grey room with no doors or windows. Realizing he must not be in Iraq anymore, Miles attempts to call for help on his satellite phone. Without a signal and slowly losing blood, Miles resigns himself to waiting for support. His captors have other plans, however, as the room begins to manipulate itself tormenting Miles in the process. Between temperature fluctuations and spinning walls, Miles is stuck until he finds out he is not alone in his turmoil.
Hypnotic sci-fi horror The Abandon delights in its compelling mystery, palpable frights, and musings on humanity.
The Abandon is indie filmmaking done right. Clearly confined to a tight budget, the team behind this gem knows how to pull off an ambitious concept with dexterity. The simple concept of a cube imprisoning confused individuals isn’t novel, but the way in which director Jason Satterlund and writer Dwain Worrell tell their heady tale of mystery is one that breaks the confines of previous sci-fi horror films. Full of unexpected twists and turns, the direction The Abandon takes will surprise you in the end.
A simple story is elevated by strong writing choices and tight grip on direction. As viewers learn piece by piece how everything is happening and conclusions as to why, the film gradually escalates its tension. The stakes raise as the walls shrink and the tests intensify. Main character Miles is put to the test physically and mentally to survive. His wounds only drive him further to get out, as certain death nears if he fails this test. Jonathan Rosenthal’s confident portrayal of Miles keeps the film from getting stale in the action sequences. The masculine bravado evident in Miles’ initial reaction to his torment evolves into a broader psychological manifestation of his trauma, guilt, and drive to better himself to salvation.
Introducing Damsey (Tamara Perry), a woman who is a calming voice on the other side of Miles’ phone in the exact same position, allows the film to get more strategic with its mystery and message. The added element of another person facing the same grueling circumstances changes the dynamic of how Miles interacts with his prison. Both he and Damsey begin to understand the true gravity of the situation and the key to which they may be able to survive. With their work in understanding the nature of their abduction and the means to their escape, the two present a plausible scenario in which survival is possible, which often feels contrived in films of this nature.
As mentioned before, this spectacle of a film benefits from the innovative filmmakers that created it. Its set is fully realized and immersive. As the temperature fluctuates and the bodies tumble across the room, the terror of the situation comes across in its entirety. The bleakness of the situation is reflected in the sturdy stone walls that line Miles’ tomb. Intimate and claustrophobic, the room looks as unforgiven as it is portrayed. Given that 90% of the film takes place in this simple room, it is imperative that the set design team delivers. In The Abandon they do just that and it makes the film.
There is very little to critique in The Abandon. Perhaps that is because it hits all the right boxes for me as a horror fan. Incredulity only comes into play in the final moments of its grand reveal. Its message comes out in a very hokey way while still feeling well-meaning and in tune with the themes of the film overall. The ending feels a bit disjointed and rushed despite the film building to a sweeping climax. Not sticking the landing is true for many films, horror or otherwise, so it is definitely forgivable in my eyes.
Contained horror films can be hit or miss in terms of quality, but The Abandon uses its intimate trappings to carve out its own niche in the trapped-in-a-room sub-genre with panache. Drawing inspiration from great films that came before it, The Abandon merges its high concept story with captivating puzzles and a persistent sense of claustrophobic dread. Leads Rosenthal and Perry anchor the film whenever the script gets too lost in the ambition of its story. While it may not be wholly original, this energetic indie film holds its own by creating something thoughtful and suspenseful. I’ll stick by this indie film until it gets a proper release and implore you all not to abandon it when it is finally available for public consumption.
Overall Score? 8/10