One of my favorite Lovecraftian tropes is having a group of reasonable scientists driven to paranoia after confronting some logic-defying (if not entirely madness-inducing) element of our universe. While a definitive adaptation of these stories has yet to grace the silver screen, we can at least be content with the suspenseful terror of films like The Thing or Event Horizon. The latest of these sci-fi horror gems comes in the form of Philip Gelatt’s minimalistic thriller, They Remain.
They Remain stars William Jackson Harper and Rebecca Henderson as Keith and Jessica, a pair of scientists investigating unnatural biological phenomena in an area previously inhabited by a murderous cult. As the investigation goes on, the two are confronted with seemingly paranormal occurrences, and, eventually, their own animalistic tendencies.
To say any more about the plot would be a disservice to a compelling, though admittedly muddled, mystery, so suffice to say that things get even stranger from there. The lack of clear explanations might be a turn-off to some viewers, with the main story feeling a bit too obtuse and deliberately paced for its own good, but the film is still a fascinating and well-crafted dive into the human psyche.
The cinematography is excellent here, with haunting visuals complemented by a simple yet effective soundtrack that constantly mounts tension and builds atmosphere. Many shots rely on unusual composition and framing to sell the idea that something isn’t quite right in this wilderness, without having to resort to characters explaining everything away. Unfortunately, this slow-burning build-up creates a lot of hype for a questionable payoff, which may ultimately decide whether you enjoy the film or not.
I have to commend Harper and Henderson’s performances, as their interactions are the heart of this film, and seeing their relationship evolve is one of the most compelling parts of the movie, and you don’t get bored watching them despite the lack of other characters. That being said, there were a few moments where the dialogue felt awkward and forced, though at times the unnatural wording of the conversations actually helped the film’s weird atmosphere.
For fans of eldritch storytelling, the recurring themes of madness and mysterious cults will obviously be a treat (especially with the film opening on a poignant quote from Lovecraft himself). Nevertheless, the story might not satisfy those who enjoy their supernatural mysteries with a solid conclusion.
Despite the possible disappointment, it’s strangely fitting that at the end of this investigation we’re left with more questions than answers, much like the film’s inquisitive main characters. They Remain isn’t exactly a new genre classic, but it’s definitely worth checking out if you value a suspenseful journey over a definitive destination.
They Remain will be available in select theaters on March 2nd in New York City and on the 9th in Los Angeles!