Adapted for TV by NBC’s genre-centric Chiller Network from the popular post-apocalyptic graphic novel by 30 Days of Night author Steve Niles, Steve Niles’ Remains is currently available on Blu-ray from Shout Factory. Like most recent entries in the endless, meandering parade of zombie apocalypse lookalikes, Remains shoots for an unconventional slant and strives to confound genre clichés. Unfortunately, despite a few unpredictable swerves, it ultimately falls mostly into rote step with the rest of its shuffling brethren. The movie’s problems are further compounded by a conspicuous dearth of sexuality, cursing, or serious gore, probably due to network constraints.
Sleepwalking half-drunk through excruciatingly dull jobs at a fourth-rate hotel and casino in Reno, waitress Tori (Evalena Marie) and maintenance man Tom (Grant Bowler) suddenly find themselves directly in the crosshairs of a full-blown, face-eating zombie invasion. The apocalyptic downturn is an unexpected result of the botched, UN-coordinated detonation of the world’s entire cache of nuclear weapons – effects Tori and Tom have conveniently avoided, since they happened to be getting down to some nefarious business in a reinforced storage locker at the moment of the explosion.
Assembling a small cadre of other survivors, including magic show technician Jensen (Miko Hughes) and club promoter Victor (Anthony Marks), Tom and Tori must struggle through an enveloping haze of misanthropic drunkenness and mutual loathing for themselves, each other, and humanity in general long enough to formulate a feasible plan of escape. When the hotel is infiltrated by a highly efficient, militant band of outsiders, remaining rations of food, booze, and medical supplies are suddenly in jeopardy, and relations between the hotel employees begin to break down as each must decide where his or her allegiances truly lie.
If it hadn’t been produced for cable, Remains might at least be a passably generic entry in the zombie apocalypse subgenre. Its characters and setting are meant to be refreshingly unconventional, but it’s basically the same story you’ve already heard a thousand times, just with a fresh coat of paint and a few more pairs of sequined cowboy boots than usual. What really hurts the movie, though, is its complete lack of teeth. The zombie effects are decent and include plenty of deformed, swollen, bloody, and mucous-suppurating latex appliances, but most scenes of violent confrontation are noticeably dry and antiseptic. Needless to say, the same prudishness extends to things like language, sexuality, and drug content (there is a very weird and awkward scene, for example, where characters are clearly supposed to be snorting cocaine, but can’t be explicitly shown doing so).
If you’re truly determined to take a look at the film, the disc does come rife with bonus features, including commentary, TV spots, a blooper reel, and a few teaser-length episodes of a precursor web series called Road to Reno. Shout Factory wisely chose to release the movie unrated rather than let it get slapped with the PG-13 it deserves, but between the trite genre retread that comprises the story and its bland, bloodless, sexless ambiance augmenting it, Remains regrettably just doesn’t have much new to offer.