Evil Remains (2004)

MAY 3, 2010


Daniel Gillies, you’re on notice. Anyone who had anything to do with Captivity is already on thin ice with me, but you especially since you also appeared in Evil Remains (aka Trespassing), which isn’t as bad (what is?) but is still a wreck of a film, one with fellow red flags Estella Warren (Planet Of The Apes remake) and Ashley Scott (Into The Blue), plus that guy from this season of 24 who distracted Katee Sackhoff away from her true purpose as being yet another plot-hole ridden “don’t they EVER do background checks on these people” mole at CTU. Christ, why did I rent this movie?

Anyway, I guess it could be worse. It’s sort of nice to look at, though director James Merendino and DP Tom Calloway are a bit too in love with long shots that track from right to left, particularly of the main locale of the film (a “cursed” house), which they cut to and track around at least a dozen times in the movie. And in certain scenes, Warren resembles a capable actress, which is fairly remarkable considering her woeful appearances in Apes, Driven, and Kangaroo Jack, during which even Anthony Anderson mocked her abilities. Maybe she was just confused by the big crews and catering trucks on those films.

Also, I suspect there is some post production finagling involved. Everything reeks of a botched release, starting with the DVD case itself. We have cover art that displays Scott with a different hair color than the one she has in the film, a different title (it played in theaters under the name Trespassing, which is still retained on the end credits), and a quote (“Scarier than Cabin Fever, more terrifying than Jeepers Creepers!”) that is attributed to no one.

I also have to believe that Merendino and editor Esther (Ester on the DVD case) P. Russell are not as sadistic as their editing suggests. Potentially tense moments are deflated by cutting away to other characters, major deaths occur off-screen, and the end credits run for a full 10 minutes in order to pad the film out to a standard 88 minute length. Worse, the ending is just a giant “What the fuck?” leaves entire portions of the movie unresolved. It’s one thing to leave the movie ambiguous, but in this case it truly feels like parts of the movie are missing. And normally I’d be more forgiving, but this thing actually played in theaters, so it doesn’t get the DTV handicap.

I was also baffled by the opening credits, which listed its bigger actors after the unknowns, and unceremoniously placed Kurtwood Smith (the film’s biggest star) after the title, instead of with an “And” or “Special Appearance by” credit. Also, the multiple producer credits feature commas between their names, which I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. At first I thought that for once they were just being honest, and that Warren and the others weren’t in it as much as the others, but that’s not the case - Warren is the main character. Top billed Clayne Crawford (who?) is the first to die (actually, I now realize that all of the actors are listed in order of their deaths, with the only two survivors coming last, so the credits actually double as a cross between foreshadowing and a spoiler).

Kurtwood’s scenes also seem very disconnected from the rest of the film. He never shares the screen with the other listed actors (there’s a quick, badly matched shot of the Gillies character from behind, but that could easily be a double), and even the shooting style is different - the entire first scene is shot with just two awkward setups, one dead on shot of Smith and an oddly high angled shot of Gillies, a stark change from the rest of the film, which is largely hand-held and constantly moving. And his second scene is with some random character we don’t know and seems to exist solely to provide exposition that should have been revealed to Warren and the other characters. It basically makes that scene at the end of Psycho feel less tacked on.

So what did I like? The opening scene! It’s a quick slasher bit, but it’s got a good mirror scare and some squishy sound effects, plus a welcome cameo by Maryam D’Abo. And unlike the rest of the movie, it’s actually fairly clear as to what is going on, so it’s got a bit of novelty as well. The rest is just a mix between generic slasher moments and incomprehensible attack scenes, where it’s almost never possible to tell what is happening. And again, the ending doesn’t bother to explain any of it in even a basic sense (i.e. were they possessed and killing each other, or was there really a killer after them?), which just makes them even more baffling. But at least it started off on the right foot.

Odd bit of trivia - the film was released one week before the original Saw. I mention this because a character is actually caught in a giant trap at one point, and another character has to inflict harm on himself in order to try to free him (which he fails to do), a setup that is used in any number of Saw films. And again, Gillies went on to appear in Captivity, which is certainly the low point of Saw-inspired films. Which is weird, because any sane person would tell you that, as with Captivity, you’d be better off watching a Saw movie than this.

What say you?

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1 comment:

  1. Whenever I'm looking for an example of how I loathe unnecessary dramatic conflict as a substitute for original characterization in horror movies, good ol' EVIL REMAINS comes to mind. Unless I'm exaggerating this element in my memory, there's a few scenes where characters begin arguing about their petty grievances while they're actually in the act of evading the killer.


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