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Into the Abyss (2022) Review

Just about a year ago, we ran a preview of Into the Abyss, or Me Encontrarás en lo Profundo del Abismo, You Will Find Me in the Depth of the Abyss, as it’s known in its native Argentina. It’s an intriguing looking Lovecraftian thriller from director Matías Xavier Rispau (Blanco o Negro, El Turno Nocturno) and it had no trouble getting my attention. Unfortunately, after that I heard nothing apart from word of a German release last October.

Turns out, it was dumped on the North American market with no fanfare earlier this month. That’s never a good sign, but the trailer looked interesting enough, I had to check it out, and for $3.99 I wasn’t risking much if it did turn out to deserve its quiet burial.

Opening with a biblical sounding quote from “Isaiah the Prophet” Into the Abyss, no relation to Netflix’s recent disaster film The Abyss, is set in a world of perpetual rain and darkness. In the midst of this deluge, Bannon (Martín Rispau, El Turno Nocturno, Nieva) is trying to start his car, but with no luck. After listening to old voice messages from his wife, he sets out on foot.

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The script by Matías Xavier Rispau and his frequent collaborator Boris C.Q. is long on atmosphere as Bannon makes his way through what appears to be a deserted city looking for food, water and a way out of the abandoned metropolis. We’re never told just what happened or where everyone went. We hear the messages on his phone about evacuation, and we occasionally see the creatures, but we know as little as he does about what they are and where they came from.

“The film attracts by a proposal where the viewer can be carried away in the adventure by the classic form and style, with genres such as science fiction and terror, but without losing, at the same time, a personal and human nucleus with which many will be able to find themselves.”

Director Matías Xavier Rispau

Rispau leaves the viewer as confused as his protagonist, are these creatures aliens? From some other dimension? What is the connection between the kaiju sized thing that looks like a crab and the smaller humanoid creatures Bannon repeatedly finds himself running from? And perhaps most important to him at the moment, where was his family evacuated to? Unfortunately, none of the other survivors he encounters have any answers, nor do the various apparitions from his past that pop up to haunt him.

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The script is equally secretive about Bannon and the few other characters he meets, all three of them. We really know nothing about him, which makes it harder to emphasize with him. We know even less about the closest thing the film has to another major character, Demian (Germán Baudino, What the Waters Left Behind: Scars, History of the Occult) and he’s merely a voice on the radio for most of the film.

With an enigmatic plot and cyphers for characters, it falls on the film’s atmosphere to help make it work. Thankfully, Rispau, served as Into the Abyss’ cinematographer, and the dark, desolate images he captures here are a stark contrast to the colourful images he created filming fellow Argentinian Pablo Parés’ Pussycake. That darkness becomes a major part in the film, along with the rain, it helps to create an oppressive, almost depressing atmosphere during much of the film. And as a more practical matter, help hide any flaws in the creature effects.

For a film shot with a crew of ten and which rarely has more than one character on the screen, Into the Abyss looks and feels a lot bigger than it is. There’s really very little negative that can be said about the film from a technical standpoint. Even the CGI used for the giant creatures and long distance shots of burning cities look good. The suits for the humanoid creatures are also well done, though as I said, the darkness would help hide any zippers or other issues.

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It’s the plot itself that will be the point of contention for many viewers. Into the Abyss isn’t the Lovecraftian version of I Am Legend that the trailer hints at. It does have its moments, including one excellent jump scare, but it isn’t overly frightening either. It’s much more of a mood piece, with a touch of art horror in its wilful refusal to give the audience details or backstory.

While it wasn’t what I had hoped for, I did find Into the Abyss to be worth my money. It’s an interesting attempt at filming something that feels like a nightmare. The kind where you don’t know where you are or why you’re being attacked, you just know that you are. It certainly could be better, but it didn’t deserve to be quietly dumped during film’s season of suckage either.

Shout Factory has released Into the Abyss on Blu-ray as well as to Digital Platforms.

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