The conflict between man and his technology and the forces of nature has been a central theme in fiction since prehistoric hunters related tales of fighting giant beasts with their spears and bows and on through the likes of MOBY DICK and GODZILLA or disaster films like THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW. Now writer/director Philip Gelatt (THE BLEEDING HOUSE, EUROPA REPORT) pits high tech against something as old as time itself in THEY REMAIN.
Based on the short story “–30–” by Laird Barron THEY REMAIN follows two scientists Keith (William Jackson Harper TRUE STORY) and Jessica (Rebecca Henderson MISTRESS AMERICA) sent by a huge and shadow corporation to investigate strange happenings on the grounds of compound that used to belong to a Manson Family like cult. Setting up their gear and going to work they’re plagued with strange events and hallucinations from the start, However the discovery of another mass killing hundreds of years before the cult’s activities and Jessica’s finding of a strange artifact that that take the events to the next level, causing the relationship between the two to collapse in a mess of paranoia, sexual tension distrust and violence.
A tense, two character film THEY REMAIN builds a sense of unease from the start and gradually works up to an ambiguous and chilling final scene. As each scene builds on the previous and amplifies the growing sense of dread as the two researchers become more entangled in events beyond their comprehension.
Cinematographer Sean Kirby does a wonderful job of capturing the situation with his frequently distorted and chilling images that frequently manage to be beautiful as well. You’re never sure where the line between reality and hallucination is or when it’s been crossed, or if it’s not a hallucination but a much darker reality. With a background of mostly documentaries, including the notorious ZOO, Kirby really seems to have a future in features if he chooses.
Opening with a quote from H.P. Lovecraft THEY REMAIN is strongly influenced by his work though not based directly on it. It’s also not a typical jump scare horror film, it’s a slow burn that demands your attention every step of the way and rewards it with an expectation defying film that’s among the year’s best.
Making it’s world premiere at the H.P. LOVECRAFT FILM FESTIVAL in Portland on October 7 THEY REMAIN will also be released theatrically in late Fall 2017 via Paladin Films.