After a family moves into an old home, it discovers a chest in the attic that contains items tainted by a malevolent spirit. As the items slowly possess each family member, the spirit grows stronger and becomes hellbent on kidnapping the children.
Here we have a haunted house movie that manages to do the impossible: Make the Amityville Horror sequels from the 1980s seem like James Wan-crafted horror classics. Yeah, it’s that bad, folks.
The Remains is the movie I decided to ring in the new year with on New Year’s Eve 2016. It’s a sacred tradition: I grab some takeout of some kind (I went with Chinese this year), pop in a horror flick and call it a year. This year, I was once again fooled by the DVD cover, which promised something far more interesting than what was actually contained in said movie.
Written and directed by one Thomas Della Bella, based on his short film “Open House”, The Remains starts off with a prelude of sorts of a seance gone wrong in a house of a spiritualist trying to contact the daughter of a grieving couple, only to see things go horribly wrong in the process. Over one hundred years later, a grieving widower decides to move his family–which consists of the standard Two Younger Kids and Rebellious Emo Teenager–into the house for a fresh start. His wife had recently passed away, you see…a fact that he shoehorns in every twenty minutes or so, complete with the requisite Sad Music sting in the background. While cleaning the house, they come across a trunk in the attic that contains what was left of that last seance all of those years ago. The kids think the contents are neato, while meantime some haunted house stuff starts happening pretty much right off the bat. Lights flicker off and on, doors open and close by themselves, the ghost of a little girl shows up a couple of times, and…well, that’s about it. Oh, there was a bunch of stuff broken on a bookshelf, so that’s kind of spooky, I guess. You know it’s spooky because it has the Spooky Stinger Music (TM) accompanying it. A neighbor lady promises to bring over cake, and then is forgotten about until near the end, when she pops back up to say there was nothing right with the house before exiting the movie, some stupid things happen, the kids beat the father to death, and then everything seems to end, but then it doesn’t…and then it does. And everyone’s stupider for having watched this pathetic waste of time.
At first, during the beginning flashback scene, due to the campy overacting I thought this would be a stupid yet amusing in a campy sort of way kind of horror movie. But then, within the first few minutes of the widower and his children pulling up to the house, I realized that The Remains is one of those kind of horror movies that I like to refer to as Hallmark Channel Horror. This is where the movie tries their golly-gosh dar-diddly-arndest to be an “edgy” horror movie, but comes off as more of a hard PG rather than a lite PG-13. Thomas Della Bella certainly has a grasp of the general tropes of a haunted house horror movie, yes; unfortunately, what he lacks is the ability to use these concepts to craft something actually effective. And don’t think I’m just getting my nose out of joint because of the use of tropes, here: the aforementioned James Wan used the same tropes in both of The Conjuring movies, but he made something effectively scary out of them.
But, I admit that it’s not just the tropes, or the inability to use them effectively. You see, the script itself lacks a personality, giving us all limp, uninteresting “characters” that only fill archetypes to the point where I forgot all of their names early on and only referred to them by said archetypes: the Grieving Single Dad, the Bland Child #1 and #2, the Rebellious Teenager, the Neighbor Lady, Real Estate Agent Lady, so forth and so on. The “Rebellious Teenager” is especially annoying, as the only set mode of emoting happens to be eye-rolling and snarky sarcastic voice. Fortunately, her “acts of rebellion” are fairly lame, and the Grieving Single Dad only reacts like one would on a bad afternoon sitcom on the Disney channel. Which, now that I have a moment to think about it, seems a bit redundant.
Anyway, The Remains is a limp, lame and lamentable waste of time. Don’t let the DVD cover fool you, pass up on this one.