Director: James Merendino
Starring: Estella Warren, Daniel Gillies, Ashley Scott, Clayne Crawford, and Kurtwood Smith
Netflix Predicted Score: 1.3 stars
Evil Remains (also known as Trespassing, depending on what country the video store you accidentally rented this from happens to be in) feels like what happens when some newbie director is given the chance to turn his shitty student horror film into something with an actual budget. It's a ghastly mixture of cheeseball monster movie tropes, incomprehensible plot, and a pretentiously inept attempt at creating psychological tension, and it seriously, sincerely sucks.
The sad thing is that this isn't the work of some newborn director: James Merendino, who certainly has his share of shitty horror movie credits to his name, also is the director of the surprisingly good SLC Punk, suggesting that somewhere, buried underneath the man's insatiable desire to produce garbagey horror schlock, the guy might have a smidge of talent for making movies people might actually want to watch. Shame he just doesn't seem to be capable of escaping that nasty horror habit.
The Premise: Stop me if you've heard this one before. A college student is working on a thesis on local mythology, and amid his various researchings, comes across a local story about a psychotic young man named Carl Bryce, who brutally murdered his parents before scorching their house. His body was never found, and an ancient legend about a curse on the Bryce's land dating back to slavery times lends some oomph to the notion that there is all manner of bad shit going on there. The student (Gillies) drags a bunch of his sexy friends along to investigate the house and capture some audio and visual evidence of what might be going on there, and, lo and behold, things do not go well.
How Does All of That Go? It's MURRRRDAAAAAAAA. Seriously, everyone fucking dies. Within minutes of arriving on the property, one of the friends is dangling upside down in the attic, with his blood dripping through the floorboards and seeping into the wallpaper (one of the few legitimately cool shots of the movie). After that, the kids are picked off until only one remains (based on the billing order on the poster, you can probably guess who that is).
The movie never quite gets around to explaining whether or not all the murdering that starts taking place once the kids get to the house is the result of Carl Bryce's ghost being a real thing (we do see a big, hulking jackass in a doofy looking dog mask appear from time to time to theoretically slaughter whoever happens to be in the area), but Merendino's script is hellbent on trying to make the audience wonder if all the dog mask dude stuff is just a psychological projection, a result of the curse on the land that makes everyone who steps foot on it go crazy. While normally I'd admire a more psychological approach to horror, this movie is remarkably ham-fisted about it. Rather than simply letting the madness and tension build, Merendino just has these kids go batshit crazy at the drop of a hat, and simultaneously uses their sudden bouts of paranoid delusion to info-dump to the audience about every rancid bit of backstory these characters could possibly have to offer. So instead of tense, scary sequences, we get endless chatter from wide-eyed actors trying as hard as they can to crazy it up through their gritted teeth.
Is This Movie At Least Any Fun? Not intentionally. The tone and tenor of the thing is dour as dour gets. Merendino really thinks he's got something creepy and disturbing here, despite the fact that he's more or less retreading every "sexy teenagers get slaughtered by crazy asshole in mask" movie that's come before him. I'll grant him that, at the very least, his location manager did a good job finding a sufficiently creepy house to film in. The place is not a comfy environment, and when blood starts dripping through the walls and huge, earth-shattering crashes start coming from upstairs, I felt like things were about to get potentially interesting. Then Dog Mask shows up and all that creepy atmosphere just gets burned straight to the ground. Whoever staged the scenes of Dog Mask chasing these kids around might want to look into taking on slapstick comedy projects from here on out, because this shit could not have looked any cheesier if it tried. Every time Dog Mask and Estella Warren tangle, the dude ends up looking silly as hell as he trips over shit and flails around like he actually can't see out of that stupid mask he's wearing.
That said, I was at least marginally amused when one of the kids died by wandering into what has to be the world's largest bear trap. Seriously, you know those animal traps, the steel ones with the trip in the middle? Do they even make those in people size?
How's the Acting? Predictably terrible. Gillies is really good at furrowing his brow and sneering, and not much else. Warren and Ashley Scott have an amusingly unconvincing lesbian relationship that eventually morphs into Scott flipping her shit like a soap opera mental patient, and Warren basically looking unamused the entire time. Frankly, I had forgotten Estella Warren was even a human being until I came across this movie, and though she's easily the least offensive presence on screen throughout the endeavor, she is still straight up terrible.
On a sad note, poor, poor Kurtwood Smith has a brief book-ending role as a psychologist who apparently had some ties to the Bryce family before Carl went homicidal. He spends both his scenes sitting behind a desk, espousing inane dialogue about the nature of the crimes, what he really thinks happened, blah blah etcetera etcetera. I'm sorry, but Clarence Boddicker deserves better than this.
What Kind of Terrible Is This Movie? The generic, shitty horror movie kind. There is absolutely nothing about Evil Remains that sucks in a particularly special way. It's a lousy, low-budget horror flick that makes all the same mistakes of its forebears, and only manages to stand out in any remote way by attempting (and failing miserably) to inject a few psychological thrills into the usual mix of slashing and gutting. It is a movie that sucks. Nothing more, nothing less.
Tomorrow: An Angel Named Billy