Director/Screenplay – Brian Avenet-Bradley, Producer/Photography – Laurence Avenet-Bradley, Music – Benedikt Brydern, Visual Effects – Sarah Paul, Makeup Effects Supervisor – Toby A. Sells, Makeup Effects – Post Mortem Productions & Toby Sells Studios. Production Company – Avenet Images.
Cheri Christian (Julie Pyke), Greg Thompson (Allen Pyke), Scott Hodes (Jim Payne), Jeff Evans (Sheriff Frank Hodges), Patrick Keenan (Phillip Booth), Lynn Cole (Sarah Booth), Jason Turner (Steve), Patti French (Librarian), Crystal Porter (Gail), Rachel Jordan (Emma Pyke)
Husband and wife Allen Pyke, a technical writer, and wife Julie, a fine art photographer, are shattered when someone enters their house and slashes the throat of their daughter Emma. To get over the loss, they leave the city and rent a cabin in the backwoods near Kingspike, Georgia. Allen encourages Julie to get back into her photography. She soon becomes drawn to a nearby abandoned prison and keeps wandering out at night to visit it. Among the photographs she takes, she believes that she is able to pick up ghosts and that Emma is trying to contact her. Allen becomes concerned by her erratic behaviour and begins to dig into the past of the house and surrounding area, finding that an uncommonly high number of people have died unnaturally.
Dark Remains was the third directorial outing for Brian Avenet-Bradley. Avenet-Bradley had previously made Freez’er (2001), Ghost of the Needle (2003) and subsequently Malignant (2013). His collaborative partner in all of these has been his wife Laurence and the two co-direct Echoes of Fear (2018).
The film’s website proudly announces the number of international film festivals that Dark Remains was selected for (although a look at the fine print shows that most of these are very obscure). It is clearly a digitally shot feature and on the low-budget side but it is more than apparent that Brian Avenet-Bradley is making an effort to spook an audience. There are some unearthly jumps – in particular, a scene where something slithers down the stairs backwards after Jason Turner – and Brian Avenet-Bradley demonstrates an effective command of the ability to create peripheral jumps. It settles in as a potentially promising low-budget film.
The main problem that soon becomes apparent with Dark Remains is that Brian Avenet-Bradley is venturing into the ghost story. There are a great many independent low-budget films that have done so in the 2000s and 10s. The problem is that all of them are mining a genre that comes with only a limited number of plot moves before they all start churning through the same formula.
When you reach about the halfway point of Dark Remains, it traipses along the same path as all the others – spooky things start happening but are dismissed because of the wife’s fragile emotional state/history of mental problems; the ghosts turn out not be so scary after all and we find that all they want to do is point the way to and expose the still living person responsible for their death; the requisite scenes digging into the past to uncover the hidden secrets of the house/surrounding area.
It all transpires to a fairly ordinary payoff at the end. [PLOT SPOILERS]. Moreover, it is one where I am not sure I fully understood the individual’s reasons for becoming a killer – something to do with his mother leaving and killing herself in the jail. To its credit, the film does arrive at a downbeat ending and the nasty implication that Greg Thompson is about to kill himself to join the spirits of his wife and children in the house.