Abandoned Dead
R0 - America - Wild Eye Releasing
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (28th May 2017).
The Film

Having never outgrown her childhood fear of the dark, Los Angeles-area security guard Rachael Burke (Chupacabra Territory's Sarah Nicklin) makes sure to only take day shift assignments. On Memorial Day weekend, however, her boss pushes her into taking a last minute night shift at a new assignment at the Mayfield Addiction Clinic in a bad area of town. Rachael agrees to take the shift when her boss promises to try to get someone else to relieve her at midnight. Before leaving for the night, receptionist Anna (Stacy Snyder) shows her around, points out the rooms that are to remain locked, including the office of the absent Dr. Mayfield (Robert E. Wilhelm), and informs her that the windows all have bars because of a string of recent break-ins and Methadone thefts. Rachael settles in for what is hopefully only half-an-evening, and the discovery of a skinned cat left as an offering outside the back door is the least of her worries as she starts hearing strange noises, receives disturbing phone calls from patients begging for help and threatening suicide, hears voices, and seeing things in the shadows. The few confirmed living presences in the area, including creepy caretaker Hank (Christopher Parker), offer no comfort; and, as the evening wears on with no sign of a replacement, the visions get more personal, pushing Rachael to confront a trauma from her childhood and wonder if she was not given this job by chance.

The subgenre of "night shift" horror stories where a character is left alone in a desolate location to pass the hours and starts to question whether they are actually being threatened or just imagining things can be done effectively, but the task of expanding such a story to feature-length is even more of a challenge now that horror audiences are more savvy than they once were. Abandoned Dead, however, suffers from a paucity of imagination, making no effort to truly conceal some of its plot twists and choosing instead to pad things out in between the rote scare stylistics with increasingly dull cutaways to a detective (Carlos Ramirez) musing over the mutilation murders of three past employees of the clinic with dreary narration as he wanders the town in film noir style and occasionally receives calls at random payphones with a voice warning him: "She's not safe." Things become tedious very quickly in spite of DTV scream queen Nicklin's commitment to her character. The film's selling point is the presence of Night of the Living Dead's Judith O'Dea who appears in what seems at first like a glorified cameo before making a fuller experience in the finale that cannot be discussed without spoiling things for those who have not already guessed what is going on (O'Dea has made more indie horror film appearances in recent years but it has always been regrettable that she did not move beyond industrial and commercial work after the success of the George A. Romero film. As the writer/director of the acclaimed one-man stage show "Poe: In His Own Words, An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe", writer/producer/director Mark W. Curran certainly seemed as though he would be one of those who could make this story work, but he unfortunately falls back on the over-familiar too often.


Photographed on the Canon 5D DSLR, Abandoned Dead's single-layer, anamorphic 1.78:1 widescreen encode has an overall softness in its low-lit interiors and exteriors, possibly by design as part of the overall regraded look of the film. The bitrate seems sufficient, so it seems to be the fault of the master.


The sole audio option is a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track that gets the job done in terms of dialogue, scoring, and some directional scares but it is not a particularly adventurous mix.


There are no extras apart from previews for ten other Wild Eye titles.


The writer/director of an acclaimed one-man stage show about Edgar Allan Poe certainly seemed as though he would be one of those who could make this type of story work, but he unfortunately falls back on the over-familiar too often.


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