Written, directed and edited by Brian Avenet-Bradley ( Freez’er,Ghost of the Needle ) Dark Remains is an odd, yet entertaining little film. Obviously shot on a shoe-string budget, the film still delivers a pretty good punch in the scare department.
The film opens with a young professional couple going to bed after a party. Their daughter Emma (young actress Rachel Jordan in her first, and so far only, feature film) asks Mum if she can sleep with her and dad (Cheri Christian, Greg Thompson) and is told that she has to be a big girl and sleep on her own. Later Mum Julie wakes up in the middle of the night and finds an outside door open. Checking in on Emma she finds her with a slashed throat and wrists and what looks like one of her fingers bitten off.
After an undisclosed amount of time the grieving parents rent a cabin on a remote mountainside. Their plan is to “heal” themselves from the loss of their child and try to mend the rift that has sprung up between the two of them. Julie blames husband Allen because she believes he forgot to lock the outside door the night that Emma was murdered.
Allen continues to work as a technical book writer and he encourages photographer Julie to start working again. The couple are in a place of pain and misery and so far only Allen seems determined to rise above it. Unfortunately for the young couple, this was the worst place they could have picked to “get away from it all.”
Before I write about what works for the film, I’ll point out what does not.
Cheri Christian as grieving Mum Julie never really gets our sympathy. She walks around in most of the film looking like she is chewing on a live wasp. Instead of appearing sad and miserable from the loss of their child, she appears petulant and aggressive.
Most of the actors in the film don’t really overwhelm you with their stellar performances either. Amazingly some of the best acting comes from the smaller roles in the film. The shifty landlord Mr Booth (actor Patrick G. Keenan) does genuinely seem to be a boozy wife beater. The librarian (actress Patricia French) delivers her lines with an ease that is admirable.
Greg Thompson as husband Allen is perhaps the most sympathetic character in the film. He is a technophobe and is unable to understand his creative wife. He tries repeatedly to get her started on the healing process. He is both supportive and unhappy at the same time.
The other actor who really sold his character was Jason Turner. As family friend Steve, he only has a few minutes of screen time. But I can honestly say that for the scariest scene in the film, he did genuinely seem at first half-asleep and then terrified. My daughter and I had no problem with being terrified. When the above scene came on, I jerked my bum off the seat and gasped,”What the hell was that??” I have never seen a scarier event in a film.
Now for what the film does well. It scares you. Plain and simple. This picture has the distinction of having one of the scariest scenes in cinematic history. It has to do with a flight of stairs and something coming down it. I really cannot tell you anymore or I’ll spoil it for you. Just trust me, my daughter and I have watched this film several times and it still scares the crap out of us.
There are plenty of other scares that are not as impressive but they get the job done very well. The story is all right, just don’t expect an intricate plot here. But the mechanics of the plot serve it well enough. I didn’t find myself dangling at the end of the film wondering what had just happened. It was tied up neatly, if not a little vaguely at the end.
What did work well for the film was that the main protagonists were so consumed with guilt and misery that at first they don’t notice the warning signs. Later in the film, after it is too late, they notice.