Ken W. Hanley is the Managing Web Editor for FANGORIA and STARLOG, as well as the former Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine and a contributing writer to YouWonCannes.com. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on screenplays, his debut novel “THE I IN EVIL”, and various other projects, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.
“MORTAL REMAINS” (Film Review)Movies/TV,News,Reviews Ken W. Hanley
Contrary to popular opinion, the term “low-fi” should never directly be synonymous with “low quality.” Whether it’s the means of a the filmmaker or simply the scope of the narrative that best suits the low-fi nature of the project, just because a project doesn’t have the glitz and finesse of a studio production doesn’t disqualify the film as “less than.” And if one needs any proof of this, they not need look any further than Christian Stavrakis & Mark Ricche’s MORTAL REMAINS, which excellently uses its independent means to build a believable mythos around a dangerous fictional figurehead.
MORTAL REMAINS follows Stavrakis & Ricche as filmmakers investigating the disappearance of a local legend named Karl Atticus, who presumably committed suicide shortly after creating two controversial and seemingly lost horror films in the ‘70s. After their search puts one of the two in harm’s way, they cautiously decide to continue their investigation, interviewing those familiar and involved with his films whilst uncovering a deeper, darker history of Atticus. Soon enough, our filmmakers find that there’s a reason why Atticus’ work has been buried, and that the dangerous filmmaker may not necessarily be dead after all.
While the film is definitely a low-fi production, Stavrakis & Ricche’s passion in the project is undeniably palpable, carrying the faux-documentary format to great lengths. Stavrakis & Ricche offer enough of their own voice to add a layer of authenticity that is often missing from these kinds of film, which helps elevate the plausibility to Atticus’ own story. And while the facts, footage and testimonials presented don’t quite sell Atticus’ story as 100% realistic, diving into the unseen and eerie world of MORTAL REMAINS is exceptionally fun, especially as we learn more and more about Atticus’ background.
However, despite the low-fi means, Stavrakis & Ricche take advantage of the film’s nature to better sell the world that they’re building. Whether it’s recreating 16mm footage of Atticus’ lost jungle horror film CULTURE SHOCK or crime scene footage of a screening gone wrong, the filmmakers likely benefit from using their blood, sweat and tears to world-build as opposed to something created by a high-tech digital team. Furthermore, since Stavrakis & Ricche put themselves as the protagonists of the film, there’s an unfamiliarity that runs through the film that allows MORTAL REMAINS to operate outside of any preconceptions one might have of those involved. It’s actually a bit refreshing, as most films of MORTAL REMAINS’ ilk often suffer from issues such as casting or filmmaking flourishes that otherwise might not come from a truly homegrown production.
Yet while MORTAL REMAINS is a genuinely great time and showcase for Stavrakis & Ricche as filmmakers, that doesn’t mean the film is a complete home run. MORTAL REMAINS does suffer from a slight pacing issue in the second half, especially when the filmmakers follow an implication that Atticus’ work may have influenced many popular filmmakers. MORTAL REMAINS also does slip into terror tropes when the film goes briefly into found footage territory, but REMAINS wisely jumps out and brings the film towards an excellent conclusion with a twisted, bloody payoff.
Overall, MORTAL REMAINS is the kind of low-budget fright flick that wagers on the fun, frightening story over top notch production values, which actually works better for the experience as a whole. With some inspiration from the work of Eduardo Sanchez (who shows face as a talking head early on in the film), MORTAL REMAINS wisely takes the audience on a journey that feels tangibly real and exceptionally wicked while sending viewers down a rabbit hole they won’t soon want to leave. And since MORTAL REMAINS chases its own cinematic tail, the film is likely to play just as strong on a dark, stormy night at home as it would in a crowded theater full of ravenous horror hounds.
Update: MORTAL REMAINS is now available on a limited edition VHS release; you can pick up your copy HERE.