Film Review: '8 Remains'
A young woman must fight her own demons to escape a killer's grasp in this twisted thriller with a taxing middle act.
Talli (Maja-Celiné Probst) was expecting her birthday to be a romantic one, spent with her charming lover Damian (Gregory B. Waldis). But the date becomes one of horror when Damian shows his true colors and begins attempting to strangle Talli to death. Just when it appears Talli is about to die, the young woman finds herself standing outside her own body, left in a parallel world while on the barrier between life and death.
Confused, Talli delves deeper into the realm her near death has brought her to and finds herself confronted by numerous demons from her past that have continued to weigh on her. As Talli realizes her life is still in danger in this realm, she must fight to both overcome her troubled past and stop the deranged Damian from finally claiming her life.
If only one thing could be said about this film, it's that 8 Remains is unique in the story it tells. The climax to an average Lifetime movie premise (a woman falling for a charming man who turns out to be a killer) turning into a science fiction-esque journey through something of a purgatory where that woman faces her dark past while struggling to escape her murderous lover is a creative idea and one that opens itself up to great possibilities. While 8 Remains has a good deal of flaws that make watching it a challenge, it remains a solid thriller for what it does accomplish.
Starting with the positives, the film is shot beautifully despite being made on a meager £500,000 budget, with 8 Remains using beautiful imagery as a contrast to the dark and eerie setting (this is used best in a sequence involving Talli and her younger self set in a desolate forest). An emotionally packed moment during the third act makes great use of mixing darkness and light, making up for that scene bringing the otherwise action-packed climax to a standstill for it to occur. Cast wise, Maja-Celiné Probst gives strong emotional performances as Talli is thrown from one traumatic memory to the next, though there are moments when Probst is noticeably rigid. Gregory B. Waldis, meanwhile, makes for a strong and frighteningly powerful villain, and noteworthy side performances include Anne Alexander Sieder as Josephine, Pete Riley as Talli's unnamed stepfather, and Priscilla Wittman as a character I won't name to avoid spoilers.
The story surrounding this overall solid cast is where 8 Remains hits the snags that make it a potentially troublesome watch. While the plot is uniquely twisted, it takes a while for it to hit a real stride and start to progress in an understandable manner. Until then, 8 Remains instead throws Talli from one bizarre environment to another a-la "Alice in Wonderland meets The Five People You Meet in Heaven" without much connective tissue to give the bizarre goings on some essential grounding. The third act provides the proceedings some late connections, while some aspects will leave the audience scratching their heads as to what they meant and how they were supposed to fit into the narrative. It all makes for a potentially difficult watch, as some viewers will find the lack of explanations (or even hints at any) to be frustrating and give up before the film composes itself for the final act.
The final act of 8 Remains proves to be the film at its strongest, as it not only provides the answers that the film proceeding it was lacking, but contains much of Probst's best acting as Talli is pushed to her emotional breaking point. The ultimate explanation behind the film's events proves to be a frightening one, and the resolution is built in a way to where it is an immensely satisfying conclusion. While the film makes the mistake of holding too much explanation back from its audience, the excellently made third act ties much of the film's threads together quite well and makes the disjointed events that preceded it worth watching.
8 Remains (no pun intended) remains a somewhat hairy recommendation for me to make, as truth be told, the excessively confusing and occasionally plodding first acts had me thinking I wouldn't have much nice to write about this film. But the final act took me by surprise and made the acts that came before it worth sitting through. Add to that strong acting and you have a film that has enough strength to almost make up for its major flaw. It might turn off some viewers not willing to sit through the unbalanced first acts, but 8 Remains has too strong a concept, cast, and final act to be dismissed as just another meandering indie flick.
Score: 6 out of 10 circular hourglasses.