It’s depressingly easy to make a zombie movie these days. Given the consistent popularity of the sub-genre (The Walking Dead is particularly “hot” lately) and the relatively low expenses involved, it’s no surprise to find dozens of generic-looking zombie flicks shuffling across your various Netflix queues and VOD listings. What is surprising about the generally forgettable zombie excursion Remains is that it comes baring the name of such a solid author. (His name is in front of the title, but that seems to be where Niles’ involvement ends.) Adaptation duties fall to John Doolan, he of Sasquatch Assault and Alien Opponent.
The prolific author of titles like 30 Days of Night and Simon Dark, Steve Niles is a very talented guy, but this made-for-cable adaptation of his 2004 graphic novel series is, sorry to say, very familiar and generally pretty tiresome. The setting is Reno, Nevada, and a mysterious explosion gives way to a typical zombie outbreak, and as usual, we’re offered two handfuls of slightly interesting characters who have to try and stay one step ahead of the flesh-munchers. True to formula, only a few of the humans make it to the end credits, but since they’re so thinly-drawn, it’s tough to muster up much of a rooting interest.
A meager budget allows one to forgive the simple sets, the inconsistent zombie effects, and lighting that ranges from muddy to garish, but the basic flaws in the structure and characterizations of Remains (the movie version) often stand in the way of the fun. Virtually plotless -- fine, so are most zombie movies, even the good ones -- Remains offers a pair of bickering but gradually colorful heroes: tough guy Tom (Grant Bowler) and no-nonsense Tori (Evalina Marie) start the film as lovers, kinda, but slowly grow to hate each other as the zombie invasion goes on. A few other survivors and ostensible subplots pop up, in rather episodic (aka comic book) fashion, but the two central characters are what keep Remains upright.
Remains also features a grown-up Miko Hughes, whom you’ll no doubt remember as the murderous little kid from Pet Sematary (1989), and Lance Reddick pops up for a few scenes … and the zombie effects seem to get better as the film goes on, even if it never manages to sustain any energy for more than three or four minutes at a time. Let’s just say you’ve seen much better zombie movies than Remains, and if you’re intent on checking another one off your list, you’ve already seen much worse.