On her last chance to maintain custody of her daughter, Streak (Louisa Krause) takes a job as a security guard for an upscale, luxury apartment complex that’s long been abandoned. Her first night working the graveyard shift finds her not only contending with her surly co-worker Cooper (Jason Patric), but inner demons that may not be just imagined. The further she explores the bowels of the ornate building, the more her sanity seems to unravel.
Streak exudes vulnerability and likeability from the outset, but her instability is just as transparent. Setting her up as a potential unreliable narrator enhances the psychological element of the narrative. It’s not initially clear if events are real or in Streak’s mind, and her abrasive co-worker’s mistrust of her further exacerbates this. Cooper, having been at his post since day one, is clearly bitter toward Streak’s presence. Expecting this to be another babysitting job for a position boasting high turnover, Cooper wants little to do with Streak and he makes that known.
Jason Patric is a revelation as Cooper. For a feature with such a minimal cast, performances are all the more vital, and Patric alone carries the film. While Krause makes a fine leading lady, it’s Patric that does most of the heavy lifting. Upon Cooper’s first introduction, we instantly know we’re going to despise him. He’s abrasive, sleazy, and an all-around prick to the exposed Streak. As the narrative progresses, we slowly soften to his cold demeanor as he becomes the voice of reason. He holds fast when Streak makes emotional choices. The more Streak unravels, the more we get glimpses into Cooper’s humanity beneath the surface and the more we find ourselves rooting for him. Cooper’s nuanced layers are captivating to watch unfold.
While Streak and Cooper’s opposing personalities bring emotional tension, the looming apartment complex offers claustrophobic tension. Almost a character in its own right, the intricate and vast building feels more and more restricting the further Streak explores. From the impressive beauty to the eerie, dank underground tunnels, Zack Galler’s cinematography masterfully delivers a creepy atmosphere that continues to mount dread.
For such a fantastic directorial debut by Eytan Rockaway, it’s the third act where the story falls apart. The climax takes a dramatic turn into left field and remains there. Well, that’s not entirely true. Rockaway does give indication that this is where the story is heading, but the clues are far too subtle. Streak is continuously drawn toward one part of the building, which in the end serves as one giant metaphor, but it doesn’t immediately click into place. Or perhaps if you had an eagle eye you’d notice something in the background that essentially spells out what’s going on. But for the casual viewer, or one caught up in the characters and setting, the climax and ending feel tacked on to a different film overall.
In the end, all of the right ingredients for a memorable thriller are here. A very talented cast that transcends this claustrophobic thriller into something engaging, a unique setting that manages to be both beautiful and ugly, and a narrative that keeps you guessing all work together for a memorable journey. However, Rockaway fails to effectively foreshadow the duality he’s attempting with the plot, and the climax falls apart as a result.
The Abandoned releases this Friday, January 8, on VOD.
The Abandoned [Review]
A captivating claustrophobic thriller boasting a talented cast and excellent cinematography with psychological elements that will keep you guessing. While the third act falls apart, it’s a commendable first genre effort by Eytan Rockaway and worth watching.