There have been a myriad of films about post-apocalyptic society in America and around the world. Whether the world as we know it was destroyed by environmental catastrophe (Mad Max, The Day After Tomorrow, etc.), aliens (Mars Attacks, Independence Day, etc), the Biblical Apocalypse (The Rapture, The Prophecy, etc.) zombies (The entire George Romero “Of The Dead” series, 28 Days Later, Shaun of The Dead, etc, etc, forever) or disease (Children of Men, The Stand, etc.), it’s almost all been done before.
WHAT STILL REMAINS doesn’t break any molds with its subject matter or over-all plot, but it does add a new kind of terror about surviving the “end of the world”. Imagine being born on Earth after our entire former way of life has ceased to exist, and only hearing about things like “the president” and “movies” in bedtime stories told by parents. This is the life of Anna (Lulu Antariska; Side Effects). She’s a 19-year-old young woman who has lived her entire life with her mother and brother in a cabin in the woods. She has always known how to grow and hunt her own food, she has always been very wary of strangers, and she’s a proficient blacksmith.
At the beginning of WHAT STILL REMAINS, Anna is scouting in the woods with her brother, David (Roshon Fegan; Parenthood, Greenleaf), when they hear a man whistling behind them. David hurts himself and tells Anna to run back home. Anna believes him to be dead. When she returns, we meet her mother, JoAnne (Siena Goines; Jericho, The 40-Year-Old-Virgin) who is very sick. At first you may think that she’s going to turn into…something, but she doesn’t. She simply passes away. There is a disease, which caused the end of the world in the film, called “The Changing”, which will cause whoever is changed into something that “isn’t human”.
Anna is scared to be alone in her house, in a world where anyone you see might be out to get you. Then, one day, she encounters a stranger who at first scares her, but then Anna begins to trust him. She lets the stranger, whose name is Peter (Colin O’Donoghue; The Rite, Once Upon A Time), sleep in her yard, outside of the fence of course. The two end up getting to know each other and Peter convinces Anna to come with him to his village, so that she will be safe.
This is the point in the movie where things start to get really interesting. Until this turning point in the film, I was thinking this was a very slow moving Walking Dead rip off, but it’s a whole other kind of monster. Peter is a preacher in the community where they’re going and “the elders” of his flock are Zack (Jeff Kober; The Walking Dead, Sons of Anarchy), Judith (Mimi Rogers; Ash Vs. Evil Dead, Ginger Snaps, The Rapture), and Ben (Dohn Norwood; Bruce Almighty, The Sinner). I can’t go forward with any more exposition or I will spoil the film for you. I can tell you that the situation in which Anna finds herself is sort of a worst case scenario in my opinion, insofar as what could happen after surviving a massive plague.
WHAT STILL REMAINS is one part The Road mixed with one part Handmaid’s Tale. If you have strong feelings against religious zealotry, you will certainly enjoy this film, even though it may make you very uncomfortable at the same time. Like any work of good post-apocalyptic cinema, the film has you asking yourself what you might be capable of if the rules of society were no longer in place. Do you have what it takes to survive?
Colin Donoghue is very enjoyable as a pastor whose motives just might not be what you think they are, and Lulu Antariska is a great “final girl” who should definitely look for more roles in horror films. One of the things that I found annoying is that there were not enough scenes with Mimi Rogers, who is an incredible actress, whose role could have been bigger in this film in my opinion. I wish that the screenplay had had a little less of Anna and Peter and the woods, and more of the story when they reach the village. However I do think that writer/director Josh Mendoza put together an interesting film over-all for his feature directorial debut.
WHAT STILL REMAINS comes to VOD and streaming on August 14th, and has a DVD release on the 21st, check it out if you love the apocalypse!