Absentia (film)

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Directed by Mike Flanagan
Produced by
Written by Mike Flanagan
  • Katie Parker
  • Courtney Bell
  • Dave Levine
  • Justin Gordon
  • Morgan Peter Brown
  • James Flanagan
  • Scott Graham
  • Doug Jones
Music by Ryan David Leack
Cinematography Rustin Cerveny
Edited by Mike Flanagan
Fallback Plan Productions
Distributed by Phase 4 Films[1][2]
Release date
  • March 3, 2011 (2011-03-03) (Fargo Film Festival)[3]
Running time
91 minutes[4]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $70,000[5]

Absentia is a 2011 American independent supernatural horror film written, edited and directed by Mike Flanagan and produced by FallBack Plan Productions. The film's principal photography phase was funded by way of the film's project page on crowdfunding website Kickstarter.[6] Courtney Bell stars as a pregnant woman whose missing husband briefly reappears after an unexplained seven-year absence.


After seven years, Tricia, a pregnant woman who lives alone in a neighborhood of Glendale, California, is finally ready to accept that her missing husband, Daniel, will not return. As she prepares to declare him dead in absentia, her sister Callie, a former addict, comes to stay with her. Together, they work to obtain Daniel's death certificate and find a new apartment for Tricia. As the date approaches, Tricia has terrifying nightmares and hallucinations about Daniel that her psychiatrist interprets as stress and guilt. While jogging, Callie runs into a gaunt man in a tunnel who seems shocked that she can see him. He introduces himself as Walter Lambert and begs her to contact his son, but she runs off. Later, she returns with food and leaves it in the tunnel, which she finds empty.

When Callie discovers a pile of small metal objects on their doorstop, she assumes they were left there by Walter, so she places them at the tunnel entrance. A man walking by advises her not to do so and deposits a trash bag in the same spot. She later finds the pile of metal objects on her bed. Detective Mallory, who has been investigating Daniel's disappearance and is romantically involved with Tricia, responds to the call and chastises the women for leaving their door unlocked in a dangerous neighborhood. In her restlessness, Callie secretly relapses into drug use. Tricia decides to finally sign Daniel's death certificate and go out on a date with Mallory, only to meet a bloody and barefoot Daniel suddenly appearing in front of her house.

At the hospital, doctors diagnose Daniel as severely malnourished, dehydrated, and physically abused. Daniel seems surprised that others can see him and can only explain that he was "underneath". He does not respond to any question and seems to be in deep fear of the tunnel in front of his house. Mallory comes by to talk with Tricia, attempting to convince her to leave Daniel and be with him. Though she refuses, the two kiss. At the same time, Daniel explains to Callie that he made a trade with an insectoid creature that hides in the walls of the tunnel. Callie investigates strange movement by the bathroom and is knocked unconscious. When she wakes, she sees a creature pull Daniel into the tunnel and through the tunnel's solid walls. Callie lies about her relapse in front of the detectives, but Tricia finds her stash and accuses her of hallucinating the incident. In response, Callie shows Tricia information she found on the internet about cases of people who went missing in the neighborhood from the past 100 years, including Walter; Lambert's son claims that he was taken by monsters.

The next day, the police discover Walter's bloody body at the entrance to the tunnel, while the man Callie saw earlier is revealed to be his son, Jamie. The police accuse Jamie of kidnapping local pets, and he implies that he has been offering them as sacrifices to recover his father. Tricia and Callie are attacked by the creature, who kidnaps Tricia. Callie files a missing person report before returning to the tunnel to offer her life in return for Tricia. To her shock, the creature interprets this as saying that she wants her nephew, so it takes out Tricia's unborn fetus instead. The creature proceeds to claim her before she escapes, leaving her empty shoe behind.

Mallory finds an envelope Callie left for him that contains her research. His fellow detective, Lonergan, assures him that they will keep the cases open indefinitely. He speculates that Jamie, whom he suspects to be a serial killer, may have killed Tricia and Callie, but Mallory chooses to believe that Callie ran away and Tricia is happily living off the land somewhere. While Mallory puts up posters, he sees an apparition of Callie standing in the tunnel, but when he investigates more closely, she is gone. As he walks away, Callie watches him from the tunnel as the creature's limb rests on her shoulder.


  • Katie Parker as Callie Russel
  • Courtney Bell as Tricia Riley
  • Dave Levine as Det. Ryan Mallory
  • Justin Gordon as Det. Lonergan
  • Morgan Peter Brown as Daniel Riley
  • James Flanagan as Jamie Lambert
  • Scott Graham as Dr. Elliott
  • Ian Gregory as Mitch
  • Doug Jones as Walter Lambert
  • Connie Ventress as Ruth


Film festival screenings[edit]

Absentia debuted on March 3, 2011 at the Fargo Film Festival[3] and opened in other film festivals on the dates given below.

Home media[edit]

The film was later acquired by Phase 4 Films for North American DVD and Video on Demand distribution.[1][2]


On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 75% based on 8 reviews with an average rating of 6.2/10.[34] Andrew Mack of Twitch Film wrote that the film does not live up its hype, but "it is still an effective and creepy supernatural horror."[35] Devin Ashby of CraveOnline rated it 9/10 stars and called it "intense, haunting and refreshingly terrifying".[6] Martin Unsworth of Starburst rated it 9/10 stars and called it an instant cult favorite.[36] Dennis Harvey of Variety called it creepy and non-formulaic, though he criticized the lack of a strong payoff in the climax.[37] David Harley of Bloody Disgusting rated it 3/5 stars and called it a "genuinely creepy" film that suffers from a low budget.[38] Debi Moore of Dread Central rated it 4/5 stars and called it "both thought-provoking and thoroughly entertaining."[39] Scott Weinberg of Fearnet wrote that "Absentia certainly won't blow your speakers (or your mind), but it's still a very strong piece of independent genre filmmaking: a melancholy tale of loss that's only peripherally a horror flick, but a good one all the same."[40]


Absentia earned various awards in categories ranging from recognition of the film itself to its screenplay, direction and editing, to the performance of the lead actors.

Year Festival Award Recipients
2011 Shriekfest Best Horror Feature Film[41] Mike Flanagan
2011 Sacramento Horror Film Festival Best of Festival (Feature Film)[42] Mike Flanagan
2011 Maelstrom International Fantastic Film Festival Best Feature (Jury Award)[43] Mike Flanagan
2011 Freak Show Horror Film Festival Best Horror Feature[44] Mike Flanagan
2011 Sonoma International Film Festival Best Narrative Feature[45] Mike Flanagan
2011 Phoenix Film Festival Best Horror Feature[46] Mike Flanagan
2011 Rhode Island Horror Film Festival First Place[42] Mike Flanagan
2011 ShockerFest International Film Festival Best Horror Feature[47] Mike Flanagan
2011 Buffalo Screams Film Festival Best Horror Feature[42] Mike Flanagan
2011 Buffalo Screams Film Festival Best Director (Feature)[42] Mike Flanagan
2011 Buffalo Screams Film Festival Best Screenplay (Feature)[42] Mike Flanagan
2011 New Orleans Horror Film Festival Best Screenplay[42] Mike Flanagan
2011 Thriller! Chiller! Film Festival Best Thrill Award[42] Mike Flanagan
2011 A Night of Horror International Film Festival Director's Choice Award[48] Mike Flanagan
2011 Tabloid Witch Awards Best Horror Feature Film[49] Mike Flanagan
2011 Tabloid Witch Awards Best Actress[49] Katie Parker & Courtney Bell
2011 Tabloid Witch Awards Best Actor[49] Dave Levine
2011 Tabloid Witch Awards Best Supporting Actor[49] Morgan Peter Brown
2011 Tabloid Witch Awards Best Sound[49] Richard Ragon
2011 Blue Whiskey Independent Film Festival Best Sound[50] Gypsy Sound
2011 Fargo Film Festival Honorable Mention[42] Mike Flanagan
2013 Fangoria Best Limited-Release/Direct-to-video Film[51] Mike Flanagan


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External links[edit]