You'll never win with that hand
It's not always choosing which horror movie to watch. Sometimes you're not in the mood to watch a slasher or a vampire movie. Maybe you want a violence-filled splatter fest or perhaps something a little more psychological and slower. I'm sure many of you would get a laugh out of watching me try to decide which movie to watch, flipping through various DVDs and websites, trying to find something I'd enjoy. When I'm stuck, I'll take a look at the specifics of the movie like who is acting in it, or directing it or who wrote it. Today's movie is based off the work of famed horror comic book writer Steve Niles, who's work includes 30 Days Of Night and Criminal Macabre. Unfortunately the increase in price and decrease in quality has put a stop to my comic book reading some years back. I had never heard of Niles's book “Remains” but I have enjoyed his other work in the past, so I figured I would give this a shot.
Remains is a 2011 zombie movie based off the 5-issue comic book of the same name. The movie stars Grant Bowler (Ugly Betty, True Blood) as Tom, a blackjack dealer in a Reno, Nevada casino. Tom sneaks into storage room with Tori (Evalena Marie, Serena And The Ratts, Exhumed), a cocktail waitress at the casino, for a little “alone” time. While they are in the heavily-shielded room, a large experiment goes wrong, releasing large amounts of radiation into the world. The power goes out and both Tom and Tori are stuck in the room. When the power finally returns, they escape only to find the casino in ruins. When they try to help an old woman sitting at the slots, she turns out to be a zombie and tries to bite them. A well-placed walker-shot to the face kills her and they meet Jensen (Miko Hughes, Rosewell, Full House), a magician who worked in the casino. They fight off zombies in the hotel, trying unsuccessfully to save a woman stuck in a room with zombies. ON security cameras, they see Victor (Anthony Marks, Celebrity Ghost Stories, Blood Night: The Legend Of Mary Hatchet) fighting off zombies with a biker. He shoves the biker to the zombies and makes it into the casino. Over the course of the next few days, they try various means of escape from the casino. They try to sneak past the zombies when they sleep (yes, zombies sleep in this movie for some reason), but the plan fails. Tom's fingers are bitten, but Tori chops them off in case you become a zombie if bitten. They are saved by a group of soldiers and go back to the casino. Cindy (Tawny Cypress, Rescue Me, Heroes), the daughter of the soldier in charge, tends to Tom's wound and makes a connection with him. At the same time, the soldiers raid the casino's pantry, leaving the group with no food. Jensen tries to stop them, but is killed. With no food, corrupt soldiers, and zombies outside, how will they survive?
"Sorry, I'm new at this zombie thing."
It's important to mention that this movie was made for the Chiller TV network, a cable network specializing in horror movies. While the idea for the channel is great, for whatever reason, a lot of the movies they show are edited for content, language, or nudity. It seems kind of weird to me to create an entire network for a genre known for it's violence and nudity. The movie does have that “made-for-television” quality to it in regards to the quality of film used to shoot it and star power. There are multiple fade-to-black scenes, indicating commercial breaks, which does get tiresome. The story itself is your standard zombie-survivalist horror movie. You already have a pretty good idea of what is going to happen. None of the survivors are particularly likable, which I suppose does give the movie a dose of reality, but makes it hard to cheer for some of them. In most zombie movies, the survivors are at least moderately sympathetic characters, but not these ones. Cindy and the soldiers come into the movie with about 40 minutes left, falling somewhere in between too early and too late to make a real impact and create drama.
Thankfully, Remains does have the appropriate amount of violence and gore that is required in a zombie movie. The movie doesn't reach Romero-style violence, but it's enough to keep you entertained. The makeup on the zombies look good, though I did have multiple problems with how the zombies acted. I know they just used a lot of extras as their zombies, but there was too much variety in how they moved. Some ran, some staggered and then sprinted, and some even moved like chimps. One zombie even barked at another to get him away from a corpse. BARKED! Eventually the zombies start eating each other. Again, that's a new one. If that's the case, why not just wait the zombies out in hopes they kill each other? And since when do zombies sleep?! It does help separate the movie from other zombie films, that's too much for me. I'm a traditionalist when it comes to zombies and sleeping is just unacceptable, especially when the survivors still can't escape when the zombies are asleep.
Who ordered the extra pepperoni pizza face?
Remains is a fairly unremarkable zombie movie. I have never read the comic book, so perhaps the story is laid out in a better way, but on the screen it's standard and mundane. There were plenty of options for creativity setting the story in Reno, but it never really comes up. Why not kill a zombie with a roulette wheel or shove a slot machine on top of one? The acting is fine considering the lack of star power. There is a decent amount of violence and some gore which was more than I expected coming from Chiller. I didn't like some of the changes made to zombies as they are unnecessary and silly. Zombies are usually in the “if it ain't broke, don't fix it” category and this is a good example of why. There are worse zombie movies out there, but there are also far better ones.