Saturday, January 14, 2012

#516. Dark Remains (2005)

Directed By: Brian Avenet-Bradley

Starring: Cheri Christian, Greg Thompson, Scott Hodges

Tag line: "Pain never dies"

Trivia:  Was named Best Feature at the 2005 Rhode Island Int'l Horror Film Festival

The creative minds behind 2006's Dark Remains set out with a single goal: to make you leap out of your seat as often as possible. The film features one jump scare after another, and little else besides. But the scares do, indeed, work. 

Following an initial sequence in which a husband (Doug Hammond) and wife (Rachael Rollings) commit suicide, we're introduced to the Pykes: Allen (Greg Thompson) and Julie (Cheri Christian), whose young daughter, Emma (Rachel Jordon), was recently murdered. To escape the probing questions of the police, who consider them the prime suspects in their daughter's death, the Pykes rent a cabin in the woods, hoping the peace and tranquility will allow them to get on with their lives. Once there, Allen starts writing again, but Julie, a photographer by trade, finds it difficult to move past Emma's death, and only begrudgingly picks up her camera.  Yet what Julie sees in the few photos she does take changes her attitude, because when they're developed, the spirit of Emma is in every single one, staring back at her. To add to the mystery, the cabin they've rented has an eerie feel to it, as if the ghosts of all who lived, and died, there were watching them. Little do they realize, true evil hides behind every tree in the forest, and if they don't get out soon, their lives are in the gravest danger. 

The opening scenes of Dark Remains aren't really “scenes” at all; they're brief glimpses of events, held together by the flimsiest of stories. For example, the way the movie handles the daughter's murder is beyond bizarre. Julie, who just put Emma to bed, thinks she hears something. So, she peeks into the girl's room, only to find her daughter's been brutalized, her throat and wrists slashed open. The film makes no further attempt to explain Emma's murder, or solve the mystery surrounding it. Her death was merely a device to get the two main characters up to the cabin, and while such shoddy storytelling would normally get under my skin, Dark Remains had something else going for it.  This movie was designed to frighten the hell out of its audience, which it does quite well. The first night at the cabin, Julie takes a shower, and when she steps out to dry herself, we see the ghost of a woman, standing exactly where Julie had been just seconds before. It's a jarring moment, but isn't nearly as creepy as what happens to their house guest, Steve (Jason Turner), who makes the mistake of getting up in the middle of the night to take a stroll. 

With performances ranging from mediocre to pathetic, and a story that makes little sense (including the "big twist" at the end, which is so dumb it isn't even worth spoiling), the only thing Dark Remains offers are its horrific surprises lurking around every corner, and for the most part, they work well. If it's a thrill you're after, and nothing more, then Dark Remains is the film for you.

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