Digi-Schlock: REMAINS (Shout! Factory Blu-Ray)

SyFy rules the roost in the cable when it comes to cheap, quickly made sci-fi and horror movies made for the small screen.  However, they have recently gotten some competition on this front in the form of Chiller Films, a division of the upstart Chiller Network.  Like SyFy, they have also recently begun to issue their films on home video.  Only time will tell whether they will take the televised b-movie crown from SyFy but they’ve found a good ally on the home video front in Shout! Factory.  Remains is their second release of Chiller title on home video and they’ve put together an impressive blu-ray edition for it.

The package begins with a strong transfer of the film.  It presented in a crisp, colorful anamorphic style that uses the oft-colorful cinematography to strong effect.  Audio is presented in a simple 2.0 Stereo mix.  While it doesn’t offer the speaker activity of a more advanced mix, it keeps all its elements balanced: dialogue is clear throughout and the music and effects have appropriate heft when the mix demands it.

The disc is also unusually generous for a t.v. movie on disc in the supplements area.  The extras begin with a commentary track featuring director Colin Theys, screenwriter John Doolan, producer Andrew Gernhard and makeup effects designer Ben Chester.  Multi-person commentaries are often a risk but this one is pretty well-balanced: Theys drives the discussion and the other add informative bits from their own vantage points.

The resulting track is very scene-specific, with a lot of info about the film’s location (most of it was shot in Connecticut), the styles of the different cast members and how the film differs from its comic book source material.  A recurring theme is how time and budget constraints affected what is on screen, with descriptions of what was intended and how it had to be changed, often on the spot, to work within the production’s limitations.  All in all, a solid track and a big improvement over the commentary on a prior Theys/Doolan collaboration, Alien Opponent.

In the main extras area, there are several commercials that were used to promote the film’s original screening on Chiller Network, plus a spot that was shown at Comicon.  These are basic EPK-type material but worth watching for fans because some include on-camera commentary from comic book author Steve Niles ( these bits are the only place he appears on this disc).  There is also a four-minute blooper reel that is modestly funny and features a memorable mishap with a camera dolly at the end.

However, the big attraction here is a trio of short films collectively entitled The Road To Reno.  These shorts act as a prequel to Remains, depicting a scenario in which the people who run a service station (including one character who will pop up in Remains) are affected by the nuclear disaster that spawns the zombies.  Interestingly, it is told from the point of view of a mechanic who is exposed to the blast and finds himself transforming into a zombie.  Surprisingly, this trio of shorts is better than Remains itself: they move fast, have a few clever twists and embody a sort of purely visual “comic book” style of storytelling better than the feature itself.  Needless to say, anyone who enjoyed Remains definitely needs to watch these.

In summation, this is a far nicer disc than you would expect for a made-for-basic-cable flick: the transfer is strong and the extras are both generous and worth the time for fans.  If you’re a collector of zombie fare or someone with a soft-spot for these small-screen quickies, the edition of Remains is worth looking into.

To read Schlockmania’s film review for Remains, click here.

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