They Remain


Rating: 4.2 Out of 10
Release Date: January 28, 2018
Director: Philip Gelatt
Writer: Philip Gelatt, Laird Barron
Cast: Rebecca Henderson, William Jackson Harper
Genres: Thriller

oveRVIEW – They Remain

Philip Gelatt returns as writer/director with his second feature film, They Remain. Based on Laird Barron’s short story “30,” Gelatt makes an exercise in minimal horror with this project.

Though this slow-burn thriller can sometimes seem pretentious and pretentious in terms of symbolism and performances, this thriller ultimately pays off. The haunted natural landscape and atmospheric sound mixing add an unnerved atmosphere which only enhance its unnerved atmosphere.

The Story

Philip Gelatt’s hallucinatory horror film about a Manson Family-esque cult compound features two scientists, an investigative dog and an impending supernatural threat – all coming together. Gelatt uses inventive cinematography and Laird Barron’s unsettling source material as leverage against his familiar plot points; plus top performances by Rebecca Henderson and William Jackson Harper to achieve maximum effectiveness of his premise.

This film begins with an elegant opening shot interrupted by blurry figures that recall fever dreams, creating an unnerving atmosphere as characters wander a barren wilderness searching for clues – making it hard to tell what’s real and what isn’t. While its sense of ambiguity may make for compelling cinematic experience, viewers who want concrete action may become frustrated; those hoping for understanding their message will likely be disappointed as They Remain instead focuses more on creating unease than answering any specific queries.

Gelatt’s visual trickery is truly impressive; he employs harsh chiaroscuro, startling color adjustments, and other traditional devices to craft an unnerving and disorienting atmosphere. Coupled with strong sound mixing and an atmospheric score, these effects become potency. Unfortunately, not everything in this film makes an impactful statement – sometimes there are clunky dialogue or hallucination sequences which break its rhythm or alter its atmosphere significantly.

They Remain eventually delivers on all the darkness it sets up, but too little too late. The film’s meandering pace diminishes tension while characters remain inconsistent and inconsistent in behavior and attitude. Even when some hallucinatory sequences resonate briefly and tension builds briefly before fizzling out again – this movie could have been something special with better script writing and more compelling characters.

The Plot

They Remain is a minimal psychological horror movie that follows two scientists – an army-type male and a more-or-less strictly compliant female scientist – sent into a remote forest after an apparent Manson Family-esque massacre to investigate biological anomalies. As with most experiments of its type, It unfolds slowly with no overly descriptive dialogue – leaving viewers to figure out what’s happening, why they were there, etc. for themselves.

Philip Gelatt (Europa Report) knows how to create atmosphere, using its minimal style and expansive wilderness setting as a claustrophobic setting. His camera often lingers on small details – such as insects or leaves – in order to heighten tension in his characters and heighten tension within the storyline.

It’s hard to describe, yet somehow works: Henderson and Harper give outstanding performances that drive home the thin plot, and while their makeup might not stand up, framing and cinematography shine brightly.

This movie takes its time, testing audience patience along the way, but ultimately pays off. They Remain successfully maintains an immersive fever dream state throughout, and while not as fully realized as films like Woodshock or It Comes at Night, It does a good job at making nature seem dangerously unfamiliar.

Annihilation and They Remain are strikingly similar films, both using nature to examine human knowledge limits. Furthermore, They Remain deals with how geography can alter mental health as well as creating an ominous cosmic horror feel reminiscent of Lovecraftian cosmic horror; although its influence on this movie may not be as overt.

The Cast

They Remain has much going for it. It is an inexpensive sci-fi horror flick with an excellent cast that uses every inch of available screen real estate. Additionally, its atmosphere adds even greater chill. Furthermore, both Rebecca Henderson and William Jackson Harper make powerful performances and manage to carry what could have been an unremarkable plotline through to its conclusion.

This film mixes science fiction, horror and supernatural elements together. The plot centers around a group of scientists exploring an area which once housed a Manson Family-esque cult compound. They initially come seeking answers about an unexplained phenomenon but soon find themselves fighting for survival as strange visions start appearing and they begin questioning their sanity.

Director Philip Gelatt uses Laird Barron’s disturbing source material as inspiration to craft an unsettling tale of scientific exploration, similar to Annihilation. They Remain delves deep into human knowledge limits as well as isolation’s psychosis-causing properties; unlike Annihilation however, Gelatt avoids lazy storytelling while pushing genre limits further than ever.

Although the film has its flaws, it remains an effective thriller. Both leading stars give great performances while special effects are top-of-the-line. Additionally, cinematography uses harsh chiaroscuro and shocking color adjustments to create an atmosphere of disorientation while its sound design and score contribute to creating an experience that keeps audiences at edge of their seats. All these elements combine into creating an exciting yet terrifying cinematic journey; an essential experience for fans of horror flicks!
The Director

They Remain, the first film adaptation of Laird Barron’s work, is a slow-burn thriller with an unsettling atmosphere. Set in a remote encampment where two scientists who share an amorous history investigate strange animal behavior that leads them to discover something beyond nature’s realms.

Philip Gelatt’s direction does a fine job at keeping viewers on edge despite a relatively thin plot. Using landscape as his canvas, he uses shots lingering on insects crawling on plants or transitioning from summer to fall forests to create a disturbing ambiance. Furthermore, quick visions of the cult’s compound give the film a hallucinatory quality.

Gelatt does a wonderful job with his characters as well. His two leads possess strong chemistry while remaining realistic as people who distrust each other. Both possess expert knowledge in their respective fields – he as hunter in the field while she as scientist analyzes evidence – yet their relationship remains complicated as each has to face their own internal demons.

They Remain is a horror film that doesn’t hold back when depicting violence and horror at the compound of a cult, while also depicting its psychological elements that led them down the road towards madness.

Even though this film runs slightly too long and contains unnecessary lengthy scenes, it deserves to be seen for its atmosphere, performances, and its ability to push sci-fi past its usual tropes without succumbing to cliches. It deserves our consideration and may provide something a bit different than your standard jump-scare horror experience.
The Final Words

They Remain proves with its relatively modest budget that creating an engaging science fiction thriller doesn’t require lots of special effects or sprawling sets to engage viewers. Director Philip Gelatt creates an unsettling ambience by altering or adding to natural surroundings; long shots through forests or closeups on insects such as ants or dead animal’s twisted horn are used to heighten fear in two scientists who must face danger alone.

Helping make this film so compelling are its excellent leads: He is an army type with an outgoing personality; she is more reserved and cautious. Their banter and behavior manages to build tension; as viewers it is up to us all to figure out exactly what is going on; They Remain provides plenty of vague hints along the way.

This movie takes much from author Laird Barron’s Southern Reach trilogy of books as its source material, borrowing some tropes from it along with other recent sci-fi horror flicks like It Comes at Night and Annihilation. Though its plot may not be entirely original, its cast includes Devon the German shepherd (he used to work as a real search dog before becoming part of this cast!). It’s well acted and directed; with an outstanding supporting cast that includes Devon himself being cast for this role.

They Remain is an entertainingly dark thriller with lean visuals and superb cinematography that gradually ramps up in intensity as its dark themes reveal themselves in an effectively unnerving manner. Perfect for fans of this genre, its lean approach and outstanding cinematography make this well worth watching; especially its low budget allows it to showcase how to craft an effective thriller while the performances stand out – though don’t expect an exciting cliffhanger-type ending!

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