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“THE REMAINS” (Film Review)

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THE REMAINS is a ghost movie gloriously rich with gothic atmosphere. It’s setting is immaculate, featuring a haunted house that rivals the aesthetics of top budget Hollywood blockbusters. The dark, patchily lit Victorian home which protagonist John and his family moves into is the perfect home for its hostile, ghostly inhabitants. The way the ghosts glide in and out of shadows, skating through patches of light in the hallways, inspires something like reverence from an imagistic standpoint. The ghosts sprout into the frames with impeccable timing, appearing out of badly lit corners to genuinely startle. The portraying of restless, refreshingly creepy ghosts is brought back with flair in this film.

It’s because the ghosts are so well rendered that this independent film is so much fun. It’s not so much that the ghosts are styled in a terribly original way- an entirely new take on ghosts isn’t necessary because the film’s ghosts are styled so well in the traditional fashion. With pale mottled skin and blackened pupils, the ghosts feel threatening and overtly dangerous. They successfully sneak up on us- one moment there’s an empty corner, the next there’s a spirit glaring out at us from the space. The spider-like speed of these ghosts and their lack of any shyness successfully creates a nerve wracking experience. Even when the ghosts aren’t in the scene, we know they’ll be reappearing soon.

There’s the continuous sense that these spirits are always in attendance, watching. Their presence lingers strongly after they vanish, hanging ominously over the rest of the scenes. The house’s potently gothic vibe assists in the unease that the ghosts generate. From the patterned wallpaper to the candle-like lighting, the house is enough to make Poe fans weep with joy. Every archway and room just oozes with the bleak Victorian elegance of a romantically haunted house.

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The camera work that brings us through this unsettling house is as well executed as the ghosts’ appearances. The shots of the creepily lamp lit house, dappled in yellow glow and black shadows, is breathtaking. The camera pauses at just the right angles and positions itself so interestingly in certain rooms that we feel we are inhabiting and exploring the house along with the protagonist’s family. We don’t so much walk through the house as float through it, as if we ourselves are levitating. As we gaze down on the characters from an unnaturally high vantage (like we’re viewing the scene from the ceiling), we feel disoriented. Between the flying camera gaze and the sinister interior of the house, we are fully immersed in the unnatural-ness that’s plaguing this home.

The film’s spell is at times momentarily interrupted with a rushed or delayed delivery of lines. Over dramatic expressiveness also serves as a distraction from the ghost magic. But Hannah Nordberg’s performance as a sweet and sassy eight-ish year old is astoundingly life like. The unquestionable believability of each of her lines is incredible. Also well delivered are the performances of the opening scene, in which a seance, complete with spirit photography, predates modern times by a hundred years. The seance scene sets the heavily mystic and occult drenched mood that the rest of the movie remains faithful too. Even if THE REMAINS does echo plot points of its Hollywood counterparts too loudly, it’s hard not to enjoy the spooks it so stylishly offers.

The plot of THE REMAINS, which follows a family trying to recover from the loss of John’s wife, could have benefited from more time spent on the crescendo. But the hurried conclusion in no way harms how much fun the film is. This ghost story incorporates all the wicked pieces that make haunted houses so exciting, touching on everything from seances to demons to scary dolls. THE REMAINS is a similar experience to walking through a haunted house, where there’s always another occult themed thrill around the next corner. With its excellent portrayal of ghoulish spirits, THE REMAINS achieves a playful suspense and some well won scares.

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About the author
Lexi Harrington

Lexi Harrington fell in love with horror after picking up Stephen King’s novel Carrie in middle school. Since then, she’s devoured as many horror movies and horror novels as she can. Lexi even writes about horror at Florida Atlantic University, where she is studying English. She’s also a Vinyasa yoga junky and teacher.

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