The horror genre is riddled with tales of unhappy heterosexuals purchasing a horrid haunted house in hopes of patching up their problems and achieving that supposed happy family lifestyle. Abandoned, the first feature film directed by Spencer Squire, attempts to take the twisted nuclear family formula to the next level as it follows Sara (Emma Roberts), her husband Alex (John Gallagher Jr) and their newborn baby Liam as they attempt a fresh start in a new, haunted home.
Determined to handle her postpartum depression and fulfil her duty as a mother and homemaker, Sara willingly accepts the house’s traumatic murder-suicide past, positive it won’t impact their already shaky family foundation. As more is revealed to Sara from the estate agent and the mysterious next-door neighbour about the previous residents, items begin to disappear, and her grip on reality goes with them. Sounds of children laughing echo from an old wardrobe and keep Sara on edge as she is left alone day in and day out to tend to her son and her home.
Roberts is given the most screen time, doing her best with somewhat weak writing as much of her time is spent either questionably looking after her baby or having uncomfortable dinners with her unsupportive husband. When she is finally given a moment, it makes for the most impactful scene in the entire feature, as she proclaims her character’s woes with a sincere sadness.
With a run time of 102 minutes, Abandoned opts for a slow burn style of pacing as Sara subtly descents into isolation and madness. This serves the horror flick well for the first 40 minutes, as information about the house’s past inhabitants is revealed, provoking Sara’s postpartum psychosis. Squire’s debut doesn’t offer much in terms of scares, with little to no gore and only a couple of well-timed intense psychosis shots of the houses’ former ghostly inhabitants. Generic, unbothered cinematography holds the film back massively as it coats every scene in a dull hue of things we’ve seen a thousand times before, resulting in a largely unmemorable visual style.
This film has been made a thousand times before and will undoubtedly be made a thousand times more. Squire attempts to pour real emotion, and with Roberts rarely allowed to shine, the film’s most substantial aspects get lost in a generally unoriginal story. Abandoned tries and fails to provoke the emotional truth it desperately needs to create any last impact once the credits roll.
Abandoned opens in theatres on June 17 and on digital and on-demand on June 24
by Kelsie Dickinson