Charisma Manulat, Kelly Schwarze
Since long before cinema or even literature in general, ghost stories have been one hell of a way to pass the time. Unfinished business, demons, and yes reader - the classic haunted house tale never seems to go out of style. And why would it? What better way to get the imagination fired up and the adrenaline flowing, than something terrifying to pass the time. These stories are common to the point of cliche - and for good reason. If it does the trick and ain't broken, why mess with a classic narrative? Even timeless, moral hallmarks can and are included, as the story attempts to scare the socks off of whoever is listening or watching. Don't do bad shit people because if you do, this can happen to you. Fear is an excellent teacher - but can also be so much damn fun. Few things top that feeling of dread slowing filling your mind and soul - or those heart-stopping moments of pure terror that a good ghost story can create. All while you are safe and sound in the comfort of your own home - so long as your home isn't haunted.
"Abigail Haunting" embodies almost everything I've written above to some degree, including the cautionary moral story just below the surface. It's all here - although in truth, a little slower of a burn than I've become accustomed to. Katie, after escaping her abusive boyfriend after the climax of a robbery, heads home to Prescott, Nevada and her foster mother Marge. Things have never been great between the two, but it seems age has finally caught up with Marge - and she's clearly not in the best of health. Both mentally and physically. It's when Katie begins to settle in for a short stay, that strange little things begin to take place, slowly escalating as one might suspect would happen. The title of this film does contain the word, "haunting" right?
We're also introduced to Walter, an old friend of Marge who not only serves as the movie's warning beacon for Katie, but also brings groceries - and to Brian, the films male influence. As the story unfolds, we're slowly given a backstory that explains all the strange things in the film until finally, the big reveal is thrust upon us. It all makes about as much sense as needed to move the plot along, and keep things creepy while it does it - mostly. You see reader, "Abigail Haunting" is not all about the jump-scare-a-minute marathon. This is a film that attempts to escalate the final act by slowly building tension during the first two. It's a deliberately slower-paced film and as much as I love the idea of atmosphere building, it may be a little slower than the casual viewer may be looking for. For those who love the classic way of telling of a ghost story - and don't need the constant action or jump scares that makeup horror movies today, there's a lot here to love. It also doesn't hurt that this film looks and sounds pretty damn good along the way either.
Writing on the production elements themselves is a pretty easy task for this film because for the most part, "Abigail Haunting" looks and sounds pretty great. Most of the film takes place in locations that offer complete control of the environment - a godsend for anyone making a movie with a small budget. What also helped I'm pretty sure was the slower-paced nature of the film itself, keeping the storytelling method clean and clutter-free. Even the scoring is handled well, never completely overtaking the film itself - yet almost always in the background.
The leading cast also manage to walk the line between under and overly dramatic moments. For the most part. Chelsea Jurkiewicz and Austin Collazo in the leading roles both bring a sense of realism and yes, even common sense to this film. Perhaps the final act speeds up the acceptance process of Collazo's character Brian a little, but only just. We also have Brenda Daly's character Marge, who doesn't say a whole lot during the movie - but let me tell you, her presence is definitely felt. If I had any complaints at all, it would be the lack of interactions with Walter, played by Michael Monteiro. I kept expecting his inclusion in the film to be greater than just the occasional ramblings outside the house. A character along the lines of Zelda Rubinstein's Tangina from the "Poltergeist" movies come to mind. It's a shame he wasn't utilized more.
At the end of the day writers Charisma Manulat and Kelly Schwarze, who also directed, have put forth a pretty decent flick that truth be told, may not be perfect - but is better than many heavily budgeted studio flicks I've seen recently. It may also be a little cliche but that's quite all right - cliche is a good thing. It allows us to become somewhat comfortable with what we expect to see - enough to draw us in and even make the supernatural seem a little more... natural. "Abigail Haunting" is geared to those who simply love the genre, and the classic way to make a film. It's not about the mile-a-minute jump scares rather the slow, tension building burn. Well done, and a solid three and a half stars.