Dark remains is an independent movie which combines many of the great horror staples (including; a cabin in the woods; a spooky deserted prison; ghosts who like to appear in mirrors and reflections; and a series of unexplained deaths) with decent photography, special effects and makeup. However, there is nothing really new here and many of the effects are used so frequently that they don't really add to the tension. There are also a number of weaknesses in the plot and script which mar this otherwise interesting movie.
The film begins with an unexplained double suicide (before the credits) and then we are introduced to our heroes; Julie and Allen Pyke (played by Cheri Christian and Greg Thompson). Julie is going to get a glass of water late at night when she notices the front door is open. She goes to check on her young daughter, Emma, and finds that she has been brutally murdered in her bed. The grieving couple decide to move out of the city to a cabin in the mountains to try to come to terms with their loss but Julie is clearly withdrawn and depressed so Allen persuades her to start taking photographs again in the hopes that she will be able to get back to some semblance of a normal happy life. However, Julie soon discovers an abandoned prison while out with her camera and becomes convinced that she can captured the images of a number of ghosts lurking there - including the ghost of her daughter.
Sticking closely to the horror-film "rules" Julie initially wants to leave the fairly creepy cabin and then reverses her position and becomes obsessed by the idea that her daughter's spirit is there refusing to leave. Of course, no one else seems to be able to see the spooks in the photos leading you to wonder whether she is simply grasping at straws or losing her mind. Meanwhile, Allen is convinced the place is perfectly normal until a family friend is so freaked by something he sees while visiting them that he refuses to ever return to the cabin or allow his family anywhere near it. His suspicions raised, Allen begins investigating the cabin only to find out that there have been so many suicides, accidents and unexplained deaths that it is hard to believe the place has not already been condemned. Add to the mix a creepy handyman whose mother died there of "exposure" and seems to spend all his time hanging around the prison and an unhelpful sheriff who (at least initially) apparently considers Allen to be the main suspect in the murder of their daughter Emma and you have all the makings for a by-the-book horror.
One of the main concepts behind the story (that a person haunted by a recent bereavement could find themselves being literally haunted) is interesting and the final scene in the movie is both satisfying and creepy, but unfortunately this doesn´t gel with the rather clumsy introduction of the live human murder who is apparently responsible for most of the "accidental deaths". The director seems to have been unsure whether to leave it as a ghost story or turn it into a serial killer story - and the mixture of the two really does not work. The result is muddled and disappointing and leaves the most interesting questions unanswered. Who actually killed their daughter? What is she trying to tell them? And why does it appear that something is drawing the girl back into the shadows when she tries to communicate? By uncomfortably wedging in a real live killer into the movie instead of allowing the spirits to take all the glory, the movie misses the opportunity to be truly creepy and almost feels like two films forced into one.
The effects, although well shot, are very familiar and their effect is somewhat lessened by this familiarity. I have now seen so many scenes in which a ghost appears in a mirror behind the protagonist that I am almost surprised not to find a ghost in the mirror when I brush my teeth in the morning. This movie squeezes in more of these scenes than most - but quantity is not quality. Other shocks are provided by sudden loud noises (yawn) and the recycling of similar scenes from other movies. Of them all, my favourite was the spook that scared off Allen's friend - who was too clearly a hybrid of Cheryl from The Evil Dead and the "spidercrawling" Regan from The Exorcist.
Dark Remains is not a bad movie, but if you like horror films (particularly those from the Asian market) you will have seen it all before and while it is certainly above the standard of the worst examples, it cannot touch the best. That being said, there are worse ways to pass 91 minutes.Short Review
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