Fans of the horror subgenre will notice how Abandoned fits into two storytelling styles despite its haunted home narrative. In the first, a film poses the question of whether the protagonist's experiences are real or only in their heads and then leaves the audience in suspense for the majority of the running time. In the second, the movie's "true subject" is explored while using elements of terror to support a greater metaphor. Although they may appear to be complementing, they actually push viewers to consider what they are seeing in quite different ways. For instance, whether something makes sense is a narrative question in one and a thematic one in the other.

Spencer Squire's feature film debut, Abandoned, starts with young parents sara (Emma Roberts) and Alex (John Gallagher, Jr.) relocating to a rural farmhouse with their young son Liam. The home has been unsold for many years as a result of a terrible tragedy that occurred inside its walls, but sara, who has been battling postpartum depression, cannot be discouraged since she needs a change of scenery. As she makes every effort to maintain a connection with her child, she also begins to learn more about what happened in her new house. As a result, she soon encounters events that are beyond her comprehension. Things unexpectedly move or disappear, and at night, there are noises coming from behind the bedroom wardrobe.

From that concept, most potential viewers can see where things would go, and they'd mostly be right. Abandoned's plot is quite obvious; in fact, the movie's trailer just gives away Michael Shannon's part as the couple's unpleasant neighbour. Squire deserves credit for giving his performers enough leeway to make switching from one story beat to another an enjoyable experience. Roberts, Gallagher, and Shannon, a seasoned acting trio, consistently put effort into showing the inner lives of their characters, and because the camera is focussed on their faces so frequently, the audience gets to see them do it.

However, some parts of the film are far choppier. Attempts to create jump scare-style situations don't work well in terms of horror because of how they are telegraphed and how they are edited. Moments of ugliness that support bigger themes of rot and decay work better, though they are still not particularly inventive. Instead of trying to get the audience's adrenaline pumping with stodgy haunted house pranks, Abandoned would have been better served by remaining firmly in the unnerving mood. The script is also far too eager to embrace a characterisation of sara as monster, despite the fact that it does have some intriguing things to say about the anguish of feeling estranged from one's own child.

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