Steve Niles’ Remains
by Jef Burnham
Premieres Friday, December 16th at 10pm ET only on Chiller.
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The first original movie from Chiller is an ambitious adaptation of Steve Niles’ (30 Days of Night) graphic novel Remains. It’s Peace Day. A machine colloquially dubbed the “Nuke Oven,” which is said to render any nuclear material harmless, is ceremoniously activated just outside Reno, NV with unexpected results. The machine explodes upon activation and creates a zombie-infested wasteland that spreads out in all directions. The survivors of this catastrophe around Reno take up shelter in an abandoned casino/hotel. The in-fighting and lamenting that typifies your standard zombie movie’s cast of characters ensues.
The movie boasts an excellent setup and a promising location for its survivors to inhabit. Well, maybe the setup isn’t that exciting. While I like the concept of the Nuke Oven being responsible for the zombies, the ways the survivors escape zombification is all too reminiscent of Night of the Comet. Although I make no judgment calls here as to the relative quality of Night of the Comet, associating your zombie film with another that features teenage girls playing dress-up at the end of the world should probably be avoided. Still, the setup works overall.
Unfortunately, the movie struggles to maintain the pace of its opening as the narrative progresses. It seems every time the story really gets moving, the narrative devolves into yet another scene of characters drinking and relating their troubled pasts to one another. It subsequently takes an inordinate amount of time for the pace to pick back up. This trend persists all the way up until the end of the film. Additionally, these scenes of characters opening up to one another serve only to distance us, the audience, from the characters. After all, the scenes’ inconvenient placement within the narrative consistently stymies our enjoyment of the action and muddles the natural flow of events, leaving us generally unreceptive to their interior issues. But this is a problem that many survival horror films suffer from, if usually to a lesser degree.
Still, if you’re a zombie film or Steve Niles fan, Remains is not a bad way to spend a couple hours on December 16. The movie stars Grant Bowler (True Blood, Ugly Betty), Lance Reddick (Fringe, Lost, The Wire), Miko Hughes (Pet Sematary) and Tawny Cypress (Rescue Me, Heroes) and is written by John Doolan and directed by Colin Theys, the team behind Alien Opponent and Assault of the Sasquatch.
You can check out the exclusive online pseudo-prequel, “Remains: Road to Reno,” here. (I say pseudo-prequel because it actually takes place elsewhere during the events of the film proper.) This 11-minute short serves an interesting companion to the movie in that we delve deeper here into the process of zombification, which goes virtually unexplored in Remains.
Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.
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