Friday, April 17, 2009

Dark Remains (USA, 2005)

Brian Avenet-Bradley has been gaining continually increasing praise as a director and writer of low budget, independent genre films since Freez’er, his 2001 directorial genre debut (also known as Cold Blood). Dark Remains (2005), his third film, is a ghost story, and once again he handles both the scriptwriting and directorial chores and, once again, also delivers good gas mileage on the dollar. The story itself might not be the freshest of ghostly tales, but Avenet-Bradley and his cast milk it for all they can and, as a result, the film delivers a few decent jolts and more than enough decent scares. That the film has been selected for screening at a variety of international festivals is understandable, what isn’t understandable is that the film hasn’t been a bigger success.
Dark Remains opens with two jolts: First, a double suicide with a man who blows his brains out and a woman who slits her wrists in the bathtub in a large rural cabin. Next, the action moves to the leisurely paced interlude of domestic bliss at the city home of Allen (Greg Thompson) and Julie Pyke (Cheri Christian), a happy couple with an adorable little girl, but this scene of familial harmony ends on a bloody note when Julie, awakened by a noise unknown, wanders into her daughter's bedroom to find her dead, her throat and wrists slashed. This not being a detective film, Avenet-Bradley skips the immediate aftermath of the event and jumps forward to the couple's eventual flight to an isolated mountain cabin in search of assuagement and emotional recovery. Julie, an art photographer, is depressed and blames her husband for their daughter's death – and his insistence that he did indeed lock the front door of their city home falls to deaf ears. Julie sees Emma in the photos she takes while wandering through the nearby deserted prison, and the couple’s slow but steady estrangement is intensified as Julie gets increasingly obsessed with her spirit photographs – photos that only show empty rooms and spaces to Allen. The viewer, however, can often see that what neither the protagonists can see: Fleeting but shocking glimpses of putrefied entities always appearing just outside of their view. (Oddly enough, visiting friends have no such luck. When their friends Steve (Jason Turner) and Gail (Syr Law) come visiting, Steve has such a horrific encounter that the couple leave the very next day.) Realizing that all is not well in the State of Denmark, Allen heads for the local library and, to the librarian’s advice that he should leave the cabin, begins researching local history... only to find out that on or around May 21st, people connected to the cabin have traditionally committed suicide or disappeared. Are he and Emma going to be next? He decides to that they should leave the cabin, but not only is Julie hardly of the same opinion, she is willing to go to great lengths to ensure that she is not taken away...
True, there are a few stumbling blocks to the story – for example: to what extent a secondary character is responsible for certain deaths is neither clear nor truly logical, the extent that Julie drifts into her obsession also costs the viewer's sympathy, and that common assumption to so many horror films that the minute you die and go ghost you automatically become an evil ghost – but it only evidence of the director's assured hand that such flaws are hardly noticeable.
Dark Remains
is downright creepy and more than bleak, but as a good old fashion ghost story the film does exactly what it should: It keeps the viewer on the edge of the sofa, the beer and popcorn forgotten. Brian Avenet-Bradley is definitely a genre director to watch.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...