Welcome witches and warlocks,
Today I will be reviewing the horror/thriller THE CHILD REMAINS (2017) by writer/director Michael Melski. To best describe the story, I will turn to the IMDB plot summary:
“An expectant couple’s intimate weekend turns to terror as they discover their secluded country inn is a haunted maternity home where infants and mothers were murdered.”
The opening sequence is a birth scene that sets up much of the story to follow by giving us a glimpse of the ghosts that haunt the local bed and breakfast. The highlights of this beginning are the dim lighting, the tight camera work, the cries of the mother, and the religious subtext that all work together to create a sense of dread. Once the child is born, the entire sequence is punctuated by the baby being put into a box and buried alive in the woods.
Yes, right away they were pulling no punches in this horror feature. This opening came as quite a shock to me as when I sat down to watch this I only knew the title of this film and nothing else. Needless to say, this was the perfect way to not only tell me much of what I needed to know, but also to grab my attention.
Fast forwarding quite a few decades we are introduced to our two leads, a married couple who decide to visit the B&B in the hopes of getting over some recent trauma. There are plenty of hints as to why they needed to get away, but the reveal is done in a slow, natural fashion that kept the emphasis on how the past is affecting their current relationship. This approach allowed the characters to feel well-rounded because their experiences never felt like a plot device, but seemed like something that they were trying to cope with to keep moving forward.
It helps that our leads are brilliantly portrayed throughout the movie. There is a good deal of restraint in their performances that lends their relationship a sense of authenticity. It also makes the scenes where they become emotive more impactful as their flashes of anger stand in stark contrast to their reserved nature through the rest of the piece.
The pacing of this picture is very deliberate with tidbits being dropped throughout as to the actual nature of the proceedings. Sure, it is clear early on that we are dealing with a haunted house type of feature, but we are kept in the dark as to the nature of the supernatural force. I appreciated the slow reveal of the entity as they peppered this film with many interesting red herrings and they managed to surprise me with one of their divulges.
As we discovered more information, they built the tension to a fever pitch before an all-out chase scene took over the back third. I absolutely adored the way they paid off the audience’s patience as they managed to deliver a sequence that was just as thrilling as it was chilling. If I had to level one critique it would be that the last scene did not work for me as well as what came before because it relied too much on being a typical final scare when compared to everything that came before.
All in all, this was an unnerving little character study that nicely paid off the audience’s patience. The focus on relationships gave this a grounded feel which was further backed up by bang up performances from the cast. Fans of psychological horror movies like Rosemary’s Baby (1968) or feature that build to great chase scenes like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) will find this to be right in their wheelhouse.
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