She’s “an acclaimed reporter,” pregnant at 42 and desperate for a little weekend getaway on her birthday.
He’s a younger musician, struggling to keep the dream alive a little longer with fatherhood bearing down on him.
Rae (Suzanne Clément) has post traumatic stress disorder, which covering crime scenes will do to you.
Liam (Allan Hawco) just wants to make her happy, and has just the place for them to unwind — this recently opened B & B, The Mersey Inn — remote, historic and Canadian.
But The Mersey wasn’t always an inn. And as the overly-solicitous manager (Shelley Thompson) coos that they’re “our only guests” this fall weekend and won’t stop talking about “Mother,” Rae starts to experience “triggers” — flashes of the horrors that have visited the place in its earlier guise, horrors we’ve seen sampled in the prologue to “The Child Remains.”
Writer-director Michael Melski (he did the doc “Perfume War” and the comedy “Growing Op”) manages only the most modest chills in this gloomy production, filmed in Nova Scotia.
His prologue establishes that history — a young expectant mother (Lesley Smith) — is held down, surrounded by other women, a “midwife” birth from hell.
There’s blood and judgement from the leader, who mutters prayers and condemns Faith (Smith) of “doing the Devil’s work.”
Faith hemorrhages and screams for her baby, to no avail.
Now, decades later, Rae experiences “flashes” of what happened, the crimes and their aftermath. She sees visions of Faith.
“It’s like…the house has what I have.”
“The house has…Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?”
Liam is slow to pick up on hostess Monica’s hints, her rose-colored recollections of “my mother Rose, a proud Christian” “delivering many babies here,” Monica’s barely-concealed distaste for “abortion” and “birth control” in these “more enlightened times.”
Rae gets plenty of warnings, too. The creepy groundskeeper asks “Your watch, is it gold?” That’d be enough to make most of us pack out bags.
But no. She’s a crime reporter and she’s going to sniff around, no matter what Liam decides to do, whatever his motivations.
The cast is properly invested in the material, but Melski takes his sweet time getting around to Rae’s immersion in the mystery.
Treating what we’re seeing as a mystery when we’ve seen the give-away prologue feels like a mistake. Rae’s investigation, snooping around the small town library nearby (a book “chooses” her), fills in the blanks and deepens our understanding of what’s happening, but would work far better as “WOW” revelations lighting the dark.
Which is where “The Child Remains” should have kept the viewer — in the dark. A shorter, simpler prologue, quicker set-up and far more pulse-pounding finale are what this picture needs.
Do more with the chilling, unusual setting, the so-called antique “Ghost Box” Liam stumbles across (a ghost presence detector patented by Edison).
Have Faith give us the clues so that we can find our way. Don’t just throw it all out there in the opening.
As it is, the too-obvious/too-slow “Remains” doesn’t frighten, doesn’t engross and doesn’t remain on the memory much past the closing credits.
MPAA Rating: unrated, bloody violence, profanity
Cast: Suzanne Clément, Allan Hawco, Shelley Thompson, Lesley Smith
Credits: Written and directed by Michael Melski. An Uncork’d release.
Running time: 1:47