A graduate student preparing his thesis on mythology leads his friends on a research expedition to an old plantation estate on the outskirts of the Big Easy. The site is reputed to mysteriously cause madness and death to all who enter it.
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The graduation student Mark is developing a monograph work about contemporary myths, and he interviews the psychiatrist Dr. Theodore Rosen, who was treating Carl Bryce, a deranged teenager that killed his parents twenty years ago. The body of Carl has never been found and there is an urban legend that the spot is a cursed place since slavery times, causing madness and death to those that trespass the area. Mark invites his friends Eric, Tyler, Kristy Goodman and Sharon to help him in his research in the old real estate. Once there, a mysterious killer starts to execute and chase the group, with the survivors trying to escape alive. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
With fine direction and a surprisingly likable and solid lead in Estella Warren, this is a well above average horror entry.
Rating: *** out of ****
I'll admit it, the deciding factor that made me seek out this film was Estella Warren. Sure, she displayed little acting talent and almost no screen presence in any of her prior roles, but there's no questioning she's a total hottie and seeing her in the role of a scream queen was a dream come true. To my utmost surprise, both she and the movie are pretty damn good, making this movie one of the more pleasant surprises of the past few months.
Evil Remains is about a small group of graduate students (five in all) who head to a long-abandoned plantation estate to help one of the guys do his thesis on myths. The plantation itself is the site of a popular myth, that the land is cursed and whoever trespasses will find themselves with an uncontrollable urge to act on their rage. Upon their arrival, the guys set up the equipment in the house while the two girls (Estella Warren and Ashley Scott), who also happen to be lesbians, go for a short walk in the woods, not knowing their return to the house will be a particularly bloody and messy one.
Right from the beginning, Evil Remains is immediately distinguished by the effective direction of James Merendino, who has a knack for developing creepy atmosphere, building suspense, and even delivering a few genuine scares. Despite the fact that natural lighting typically annoys me (and it does make it a bit difficult to tell apart the male characters for a while), it's used to good effect, giving the movie a stark look that works especially well during the nighttime scenes.
Merendino handles the stalk-and-slash sequences superbly; the second half of the film is essentially a series of bloody slasher action and exciting chase scenes that utilize both the claustrophobic and wide-spaced settings fairly well. The house itself is only explored to a mildly satisfying effect, but it's an effectively constricted location that immeasurably aids in tightening the suspense, especially in one scene where the survivors find themselves anxiously awaiting the killer on the other side of the door.
Taking everything into consideration, I was most surprised by the performances, which are all quite good. The gorgeously hot Estella Warren is especially excellent as the smart, likable heroine who actually thinks the situation through before acting. As a matter of fact, I was quite amazed by Warren's work here, since she showed no discernible acting talent in any other film I've seen her in. The only one in the cast that doesn't quite hold up is Ashley Scott, who's not bad, but the role requires her to do little more than whine.
The movie is still obviously not without its flaws. Despite the solid acting, the movie does little to establish its characters, in particular the two brothers with a troubled past that's brought up but dropped just as quickly in favor of some bloody slasher action. The decision to make the lead a lesbian is interesting (the only other slasher I've seen that made its heroine a lesbian was Deep in the Woods, but it only seemed like an excuse for nudity in that flick), but it ultimately makes little difference, as Warren and Ashley Scott could merely have played best friends and no one would be the wiser, but at least it prevents Warren from having a forced romance with one of the male characters.
A few of the characters could also show a little more common sense; one guy sees a freaky-looking image on a photo he just took, but neglects to show it to anyone else as incentive to leave. Another guy leaps off the roof of the house to escape but actually ends up backing himself towards the front door! And there's one lengthy scene that'll have you shouting "close the damn door!" Most disappointing is a potentially exciting chase scene through the woods that makes an abrupt segue that temporarily kills the momentum.
The plot's also a little hazy, there's no sense of clarity regarding exactly what it is the curse does and how a masked killer would specifically factor into it. Still, the film works for what it is, a fast-paced slasher with a number of bloody kills, exciting chases, and a terrifically secluded setting. Definitely recommended to genre fans.
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