Monday, February 26, 2018

Another attempt at nouveau horror in Philip Gelatt's 2-character creep-out, THEY REMAIN

Somewhat similar to last year's all-atmosphere/low-on-plot-and-characterization movie, It Comes at Night, this new film -- the sophomore effort from Philip Gelatt (The Bleeding House) entitled THEY REMAIN -- relies on quite a lot of exposition coupled to an attempt at slow-burning suspense and creepy behavior (from both its protagonists and from the animal/insect life on view). TrustMovies admits that he is impressed by the continuing attempts of filmmakers to find new ways to tell the same old stories. But for every Babadook or Creepy that appears we seem to get a double dose of the very labored, tiresome and ultimately annoying movies such as It Comes at Night, Daguerrotype, and now this one.

On the plus side, Mr. Gelatt, shown at right, sets most of his movie in daylight, in a quite beautiful, autumn-colored countryside in which the bad things that will soon happen take place in often the brightest of sunshine and greenery. The plot, such as it is, has to do with a couple of scientists/researchers that have been sent to this site by a "big corporation" (yes, feel free to read oh-oh! into this) in order to study the "animal life," which we soon learn is behaving oddly.

Because, I am assuming, of his very low budget, Mr. Gelatt does not allows to see this odd behavior on view. Instead, we're told about it secondhand, via the researchers. Oh, we do see a small animal skeleton, and a dog who actually seems to be behaving pretty much like dogs often act. But, again, since we're getting most of this via exposition, we'd best try to read something into all this.

The movie is mostly what they call a "two-hander," meaning we have only two characters on view: our researchers (played by William Jackson Harper, above, and Rebecca Henderson, below) who, it tuns out, have had some kind of past relationship that must have ended badly. So now they can spend the movie being vaguely annoyed with each other until, yep, they start having sex again. Or do they? As the movie moves along, it grows more difficult to detect dream or fantasy from reality.

Our pair knows from the outset that the site upon which the are doing their research doubles as the place where a series of grizzly mass murders occurred some time back. So now the animal life is affected? Is it the soil? The water? Or our researchers' imagination? Maybe even that naughty corporation, the representatives of which -- a pilot who flies in supplies and a disembodied voice we hear only over the phone -- are clearly assholes. Perhaps our two protags are simply going nuts, all on their own.

Whatever it is, it seems to take for-fucking-ever to make itself known. Meanwhile, we get lots of wandering-thru-the-woods and unpleasantness between our two lead characters, who actually don't seem to have much "character" of their own. We also get some very clunky exposition about their respective family life (wouldn't they have told this to each other during their earlier relationship?) but little else except increasing arguments, paranoia and a some now-and-then sex.

Oh, yes: A word or two ought to be said about the use of nightmare/intuitive memory flashbacks that help fill in plot-lines. Either find a better way to include these tiresome tropes or, better yet, leave them out altogether and come up with a entirely different way to inform your audience of "what happened earlier." Here, we see that naughty cult at work with snippets that increase in length but don't add much that's worth our energy or concentration. Plus, the POV for these flashbacks/fantasies seems more than a little "iffy."

By the time we've reached the end credits, the "they" who "remain" are unlikely to be the annoyed audience members who paid good money for their tickets to this nonsense. The poster (shown top) by Jeanne D'Angelo, however, is lots of fun.

From Paladin and running about 20 minutes too long at its 102-minute length, They Remain opens this Friday, March 2, in New York City at the Village East Cinema and on the following Friday, March 9, in Los Angeles at Laemmle's Music Hall 3. A national release (probably highly limited) is said to be upcoming, as well.

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