Steve Niles’ Remains (2012)

Steve Niles is the mind behind the graphic novels for 30 Days of Night, penned several issues of Spawn and wrote a twelve part Batman miniseries entitled Batman: Gotham After Midnight (amongst other things). Bizarrely he also “wrote” the videogame F.E.A.R.3.

Anyone who knows the concept behind 30 Days of Night – vampires descend on an Alaskan town during their annual month of darkness – will recognise the originality and brutal style Niles has. The feature film lacked the necessary punch (and logic) to truly impress, but his comics and the TV series 30 Days of Night: Blood Trails are genuinely good work.

So what the hell is Steve Niles’ Remains, and why have the creators opted for a John Carpenter style ownership programme (with IMDB and the DVD cover screaming THIS IS STEVE NILES’!)?

For the record, Steve Niles didn’t actually direct or write Steve Niles’ Remains, he is responsible instead for the original story and the five-issue comic series released in 2004. I presume it was a contractual obligation / demand from Niles or maybe a marketing tool to get 30 Days of Night fans salivating for another Niles adaptation.

Whatever the case, it feels superfluous and unnecessary to call this Steve Niles’ Remains as it is the polar opposite from the superb idea behind the Alaskan vampire bloodbath. Why? Originality. Or the complete lack of it.

Welcome to Reno, Nevada, a little Vegas filled with tiny casinos, crap magicians and a plethora of unlikable rogues and gamblers. As people shit away their pay-checks and inheritances on slot machines, they’re oblivious to the ‘peace day’ machine being launched a few miles away.

The machine will create green energy and save the planet. Or not… Instead this life-saver explodes and the nuclear blast rumbles over the mountains and hits Reno, washing over the inhabitants.

Those lucky to be underground (or in the street. Some people are randomly unaffected, which is odd) wake up after an Earthquake to find… ZOMBIES! Of course. Why not?

The survivors barricade themselves in the casino complex (with food, drink and a lovely indoor swimming pool) and wait out the madness. No one really questions the irradiated zombies or what they are, which is annoying. There’s just an acceptance.

Steve Niles’ 30 Days of Night has often been lauded as a great idea for a horror story but unfortunately Remains is the absolute opposite. It is worth recognizing Niles’ wrote the comic series in 2004 so people could’ve plagiarized him, but as Niles’ has his named splashed all over it, it’d be like not blaming John Carpenter for Ghosts of Mars.

Steve Niles’ Remains is basically Dawn of the Dead (both versions) mixed with 28 Days Later (the bit with the soldiers) and the computer game franchise Dead Rising. There are very few moments of genuinely originality on display here, although there are a lot of unanswered questions about the origin of the zombies, who the soldiers were etc… that could’ve been original (but we never find out).

The crazy thing is that Steve Niles’ Remains is actually very good. Ignoring the genuinely awful CGI that plagues the film – from a hilarious CGI car crash to a plethora of CGI fire – if you look at the core of this zombie horror you’ll find some excellent characters, dialogue and direction.

Directed by Colin Theys and scribed by John Doolan, this duo are also responsible for Alien Opponent, Banshee!!! (yep – three exclamation marks) and the forthcoming Dead Souls, so they’re prolific and have experience at low budget horror. It is brutal in places and the characters genuine develop, which is (unfortunately) rare in most horror films. They do good work with an unoriginal and – frankly – uninspiring concept.

So is Steve Niles’ Remains worth watching? It’s a difficult one. If you’ve watched a lot of horror films – especially zombie horror – then the overwhelming feeling of familiarity might be distracting and frustrating and if you’re new to the horror genre than watch Dawn of The Dead and 28 Days Later instead!

If you’re a screaming fan of Lance Reddick from The Wire (as Cedric Daniels) and Fringe (as Phillip Broyles) then it’s worth a watch for his extended cameo in a tight white shirt. Lovely.

Otherwise this is a well made and deeply unoriginal zombie horror that is enjoyable, brutal and smothered in awful CGI. As for Steve Niles? He might need to leave his name off his next project as it’s no longer a sign of originality / awesomeness. Steve Niles’ Remains is decent but deeply unoriginal.

Rating: ★★★★½☆☆☆☆☆

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