The Abandoned Has Yet Another Horror Protagonist Who Is Too Dumb to Live

Illustration for article titled The Abandoned Has Yet Another Horror Protagonist Who Is Too Dumb to Live

Horror movies have plenty of annoying habits—remaking sacred classics with gobs of CG, for instance. But the most annoying thing in horror has got to be when the protagonist is so utterly dumb that he or she makes decisions that everyone in the audience knows are a bad idea. Case in point: The Abandoned.


The Abandoned, from first-time feature director Eytan Rockaway, stars Louisa Krause as the wobbly Julia, who’s about to start her first night working as a security guard in a massive, completely empty apartment building. Jason Patric co-stars as Cooper, her crabby, wheelchair-bond comrade who emits sexual-harassment vibes right off the bat. But that’s not Julia’s biggest problem—because nothing can top her irrepressible urge to rattle knobs on locked doors she’s specifically been instructed as part of her job not to fuck with.

It’s one thing to have a purpose to poke into where you’re not supposed to go. In The Forest, reviewed earlier today, the main character creeps around a haunted forest because she’s frantically looking for her missing sister. In Session 9, the doomed asbestos-removal crew has legitimate cause to visit every the dark nook in the crumbling hospital that happens to be their job site.

Julia has no excuse; in fact, we’re specifically told she needs this security gig if she wants to keep custody of her young daughter. The job, as detailed by the jaded Cooper, pays well and doesn’t require a lot of effort; mostly you just sit in front of a wall of CCTV screens, making sure nobody breaks in, and every once in awhile patrol the halls to insure all the cameras are in working order.

There’s not a single reason—especially after we’re casually told that Julia is sensitive in an ESP kinda way—that she should be fumbling around off the grid, discovering grim things about the building that are later confirmed by a rather hilariously speedy internet search. But since The Abandoned is a horror movie, fumble she does—to the point where audiences may find their annoyance at her actions trumps any terror they may feel for her predicament. YOU opened the door, Julia. In fact, you CHOPPED OFF THE LOCK, chasing after a noise you thought you maybe heard on the other side. If you wanted to get fired, why not just set fire to the lobby instead?

Bitching aside, The Abandoned actually starts off pretty strong—Patric’s role is mostly thankless, but his character has believable layers. He’s not really a bad dude, just deeply bitter. And you can just tell it’s easier for him to be an jerk, especially with people he’s just met, then act like he could potentially give a shit. The giant, shadowy apartment building is suitably atmospheric, and helps to convey the feeling that something is lurking just outside the frame.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t keep up throughout the film, which begins to leak all tension built up by the foreshadowing-heavy first half as soon as Julia takes it upon herself to burst through that forbidden door. Once we start scoffing at the lead character, the stakes are suddenly nonexistent. Extra demerits for that unearned, laughable “twist” at the end, too.

The Abandoned is out today, in theaters and on VOD.




I find myself growing increasingly annoyed with characters being dumb because the plot couldn’t advance if they weren’t. I listen to a few horror podcasts when I’m at work, and way too many writers, professional and amateur, fall back on some variation of “I knew I shouldn’t go back into the evil building/basement/morgue, but I had to.” Why did you have to, other than because the author said so? It takes me right out of it. I want stupid protagonists to die so I won’t have to watch them anymore. It’s so much more effective when the characters aren’t raving morons and they’re still in danger in spite of that. Like the part in Pandorum where they take down one of the mutants and then stab it about 20 more times instead of sneaking away from it. I practically cheered, it was so unexpected. Time to stop giving this stuff a pass because it’s “just how horror movies are.” No, they can be more than that.