(On Cable TV, June 2013) Horror and low-budgets are nearly made for each other, and films like writer/director Mike Flanagan’s Absentia continue to show why horror films made on a shoestring can still be worth a look. As the film begins, we come to understand that our lead protagonist is nearly done grieving after her husband disappeared without a trace seven years earlier. Putting up the last of her remaining “Missing” posters, she’s about to move away, give birth and settle down with her new lover. But there are complications: First, her ex-junkie sister shows up, and then, right after signing the death-by-absentia papers, so does her husband. What’s going on? And what’s the link with the mysterious tunnel not too far away from their home? Absentia doesn’t have a lot of money to spend on spectacle, but what it does put on-screen is worthwhile. This is a quieter horror film that works on suggestion (even the CGI effects tend to be subtle apparitions in shadows), dread, existential horror and the tragedy of denied grief. For jaded horror audiences, it’s a useful reminder that it’s certainly possible to do interesting things with a bit of imagination and skilled execution. While Absentia certainly can’t shake its low-budget credentials (the acting is dull, the cinematography is grainy and the sets are definitely limited), it does a lot with what it has at its disposal. The most annoying element of the film comes at the end, which is about as abrupt and tediously nihilistic as anyone would fear: it solves little and feels like an arbitrary way to end the film. Still, let’s not be overly sour: Absentia works well, and sometimes better than many other bigger-budgeted horror films.