Studio: Vertical Entertainment
Director: Thomas Della Bella
Writer: Thomas Della Bella
Producer: Eric B. Fleischman, Sean Tabibian
Stars: Todd Lowe, Brooke Butler, Hannah Nordberg, Ashley Crow, Dash Williams, Samuel Larson, Lisa Brenner, Maria Olsen
Cursed antiques plague a troubled family that moves into a house where a séance resulted in multiple murders.
Three months into life as a widower, John is looking for a change of scenery with his teenage daughter Izzy and younger children Aiden and Victoria. As tends to happen to troubled families anxious for fresh starts in horror films, the old house John chooses for a new home in “The Remains” happens to be where five murders took place in 1891 during a spooky séance run amok.
John doesn’t know this though, and he won’t for a little while. In reality, California realtors are legally required to disclose fatal events prior to a property purchase. In a horror movie, every next-door neighbor or Chinese food delivery guy is required to obliquely reference disbelief over someone moving into the old house and then not answer when John asks, “why?”
While Izzy is busy rebelling without a cause and John does whatever John does, Victoria and Aiden occupy themselves with some curious antiques found in the attic. Of course, as is often the case with cursed objects left behind in an eerie Victorian home, these items conveniently include a creepy doll, a crackling old phonograph, and a vintage camera capable of photographing ghosts.
Doors start slamming, nightmares start scaring, and the behavior of John’s brood grows increasingly stranger as everyone becomes transfixed by the odd items. John should have sensed something amiss upon spotting his kids watching “Night of the Living Dead,” the go-to fictional horror world staple, on TV. Only imaginary eight-year-olds could be that enamored with a black-and-white movie in the public domain.
The critical clue to solving this paranormal mystery comes when a phantom child appears with an obtuse warning. Yet again, remember “The Remains” is formulaic fright fare. This means that even a ghost girl capable of speaking unencumbered English can only communicate important information cryptically, telling John, “it’s too late. Burn them. She’s coming!”
The girl could just as easily have specifically said, “burn the antiques or Madame Addison’s ghost will kill you” and spared John from spending the next third of the film catching up on everything the audience already knows. He figures a few things out for himself though, finally boxing up the evil antiques and dumping them in the garbage can outside.
Now, do you think that the cursed items a.) are taken away by a trash collector and disposed of properly, or b.) mysteriously reappear inside the house under unknown circumstances to wreak more supernatural havoc? If you answered a, you’ve apparently never seen a clichéd haunted house thriller before.
Writer/director Thomas Della Bella certainly has. His movie’s anemic arsenal is supplied by a staggering stockpile of standard jump scares and conventional plot points. A bloody person manages to gurgle a vital clue before suddenly dying. A horrible incident occurring far too early to be real is revealed to be a hallucination. An epilogue features another ill-fated family preparing to move into the same haunted house. If it exists in “The Remains,” it exists in another movie too.
Don’t forget all of the useless secondary characters either, even if the script does. John’s mother whom he talks to on the phone and who mentions being on her way to visit? Never seen. What comes of odd neighbor Melissa twice mentioning her father who suffered a stroke in the house? Nothing. At least Izzy’s forgettable boyfriend Tommy, a bad boy dad doesn’t like naturally, excuses why Izzy is seldom seen, and gets her out of the house at a key moment so she can predictably stumble into a climactic horror show upon her well-timed return home.
With its theatrical quality production value and recognizable lead in Todd Lowe of “True Blood,” outward appearances can fool you into thinking “The Remains” might be better than it is. Truth of the matter is the movie turns out to be just another poor man’s “Amityville Horror.”
Actually, most direct-to-VOD Amityville movies are poor man productions. It might be more accurate to call this a lower middle class man’s “Amityville Horror.” And in deference to that simile, the Lutz Family’s Ocean Avenue home with distinct quarter-moon windows is a one-of-a-kind Dutch Colonial construction. “The Remains” is equivalent to nondescript tract housing created from prefab components included in every other bland building already on the block.
Review Score: 30