Steve Niles' Remains Blu-ray Review
Directed by Colin Theys
Written by John Doolan
2011, Region A (NTSC), 88 minutes, Not Rated
DVD released on August 7th, 2012
Grant Bowler as Tom
Evalena Marie as Tori
Miko Hughes as Jensen
Anthony Marks as Victor
Lance Reddick as Ramsey
Good news! The government has found a way to resolve the nuclear threat with a new device dubbed “the peace bomb.” Bad news! The inefficient weapon removes that threat by eliminating the majority of the general population. The colorful characters now walking the streets of Reno, Nevada, wager that your brains are damn tasty and will do anything to find out. A small group of survivors now reside in the Silver Star Hotel and Casino, but quickly learn that their fellow men may be more dangerous than the average zombie street walker.
Tom and Tori are employees spared a fate worse than death only because they have decided to spend a classy moment fucking in the back room at work despite the fact that they don’t really get along. Our reluctant heroes are paired up with Jensen, the aspiring magician, and Victor, the mysterious stranger, and together they pass the time cleaning out the zombies that litter the casino. Soon things are under control and the gang can enjoy quiet drinks at the bar…but faster than a roving motorcycle gang can punish a shopping mall, this oasis is upset by a marauding military unit seeking supplies and the group is back to fighting for survival.
Question: What do you get when you cross George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead with low-budget made-for-TV restrictions? Answer: Disappointed. Steve Niles’ Remains is an ambitious project that lumbers through the paces of the over-saturated zombie genre in this by-the-numbers movie-of-the-week set in a casino. The two elements that hobble this show are the overly-familiar script and the limited budget that aspires for epic storytelling but comes off simply cheap.
The financial limitations rob the film of a scope that would suggest the action continues beyond the dozen or so extras that shamble in the same alley for days on end. There are a few painfully obvious sets, and worse still, a brick wall backdrop that was borrowed from the local summer-stock.
There is nothing particularly wrong with the cast, but there isn’t a lot to say about them either. The two standout supporting players Miko Hughes (Pet Sematary) and Lance Reddick (The Wire) both spend less time on screen than their billing suggests, but it is nice to have them involved. In an odd marketing decision, the fate of a major character is revealed on the cover art, but viewers will have to sit through the entire film to understand what I mean.
There are some nice additions to the zombie genre including an interesting set piece involving our heroes navigating through a cluster of sleeping zombies. The concept was recently seen in Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies, and is better executed here, although I’m not sure why the dead need to sleep. Something that bugged me in particular, however, is the frequent attention paid to the level of supplies in the pantry. Wouldn’t it stand to reason that once the military leaves with the food, could our heroes not simply walk to the next hotel and start with a fresh supply of refrigerated goodies?
Director Colin Theys and writer John Doolan reunite from their previous effort Alien Opponent for a more focused style of horror. While the filmmakers have grown from one project to the next, both movies suffer from similar shortcomings in character development and poor pacing. The earlier film simply introduced characters in order to kill them and it worked in a comical manner, but the opportunities for suspense in Remains are largely squandered. The Blu-ray package includes a flyer for their upcoming Dead Souls. Hopefully the third time’s the charm.
Steve Niles’ Remains is based on the comic miniseries of the same name by the creator of 30 Days of Night. The filmmakers discuss the numerous changes made when writing the script, but viewers of the finished film will likely lack the enthusiasm felt by the readers of the original story. Perhaps it would translate better as an animated hour-long special.
Video and Audio:
Shout! Factory scores yet again with another solid presentation. The 1.78:1 aspect ratio is full of color and fine detail. There are some soft shots, but these are likely from the source material rather than anything to do with the transfer. Flesh tones appear natural and black levels are rich without appearing murky.
Audio is presented in a respectable DTS HDMA 2.0 lossless mix that delivers everything through the front speakers. Gunshots in the immediate vicinity are powerful while those heard in the distance are sufficiently relegated to a directional speaker suggesting proximity.
An assortment of crew members share a single microphone to record an enjoyable commentary track that is pretty engaging and filled with anecdotes from the shoot. There isn’t a lot of room for dead air or descriptions of what is happening on-screen as the group keeps things moving.
While the commentary is the strongest supplement, there is also a nice prequel short film titled Road to Reno presented in three episodes running less than five minutes each.
What’s a video release without a gag reel? Luckily audiences don’t have to answer, as the four minute collection of bloopers will certainly draw a few smiles.
Rounding out the disc are TV spots and a Comic-Con teaser trailer.
*Note: The screenshots on this page are not a reflection of the Blu-ray image. They were captured using the standard DVD.*