What Still Remains (Movie Review)

Last Updated on July 30, 2021

PLOT: A young woman raised in the post-apocalyptic wilderness falls in with a strange community of survivors.

REVIEW: One criticism that has been levelled at the AMC television series The Walking Dead over the years has been that it doesn’t feature enough zombie action. But what if the most common criticism of the show was the opposite, that zombies showed up and disrupted the character drama too often? And what if AMC responded by scaling back the number of zombies on the show until there were basically no reanimated corpses on The Walking Dead? (Hey, it could happen, because aren’t the human characters the real walking dead on that show? Deep.) If that were to happen, the result would probably look something like writer/director Josh Mendoza’s feature directorial debut WHAT STILL REMAINS, a film that’s set a couple decades into what seems to have a been a zombie apocalypse, as there are vague references to an illness that turned people into terrifying creatures called The Changed. Yet we never see any of these Changed things. This is a post-apocalyptic zombie… or something… movie that has no zombies in it.

The lead character is 19-year-old Anna (Lulu Antariksa), who was born after the apocalypse began and has been raised in the wilderness by her family. After losing her remaining relatives right up front in the film, Anna is left alone to fend for herself – so she is vulnerable when handsome stranger Peter (Colin O’Donoghue) shows up at her front gate. With her mother’s advice to find someone worth sharing life with lingering in her mind, Anna agrees to go with Peter when he returns to the village inhabited by the religious community he’s part of.

Somewhere out there, apparently, are The Changed, but an opening chase sequence and scenes during Anna and Peter’s journey to his community confirm what the true threat in this world is: other people. That’s an idea I can totally get behind. George A. Romero was always telling us in his DEAD films that other people were a greater threat than the zombies… But at least the people in his films were still sharing the screen with zombies. WHAT STILL REMAINS teases us with the idea that something’s out there, then just leaves us hanging.

Some of the dangerous people are a group called Berserkers (I can’t hear that word without a song from Kevin Smith’s CLERKS popping into my head), who are masked, blade-wielding maniacs. They’re the flashier bunch, but my favorite scene in the film involved an encounter Anna and Peter have with a couple more down-to-earth fellows who want to take Anna for themselves. Their interaction provides a great couple minutes of tension, because we know this situation is going to fall apart but we can’t be sure exactly how bad it’s going to get.

As a regular viewer and reviewer of The Walking Dead, the talk of joining a community had me immediately bracing myself to see something underwhelming, as that show has recently run itself into the ground by dealing with the idea of communities working with or waging war on each other. Indeed, the stretch of the film that takes place at the religious community did prove to be kind of dry, despite the fact that two of the main characters there are played by Mimi Rogers and (The Walking Dead alum) Jeff Kober. It was good to see them show up, but while it’s obvious that there’s something strange going on with this group and Anna made a mistake joining up with them, the film doesn’t really live up to the potential of the idea. 

WHAT STILL REMAINS takes its time getting Anna to the religious community – almost half of the 92 minute running time. Once it’s there, however, the place doesn’t seem to be quite worth the wait. The film probably would have benefited from getting Anna to the village quicker and spending more time delving into the community’s characters and inner workings. When information is revealed, it is unsettling, but overall I wasn’t drawn into what was going on. The presentation was too low-key, the pacing too slow, it all felt superficial.

That feeling extends to the climax, where things are wrapped up in a quick, simple, unsatisfactory manner.

If you watch The Walking Dead, comparisons to that show will likely be unavoidable when you’re watching WHAT STILL REMAINS. In the end, though, you have to set aside any thoughts of that series, and any bias you may have regarding post-apocalyptic communities because of it, and judge this film on its own terms. Doing that, I found it to be watchable but bland.

Technically speaking, this is an exceptionally well made movie. It looks great, and has an appealing Western vibe. There are interesting concepts within the story, and the cast does a terrific job with what they were given to work with. The script just didn’t give them quite enough to work with – there’s a feeling that this could have been a better, more entertaining film than it is. If Mendoza had explored some of the concepts further, this could have been better than the middle-of-the-road film that it is.

What Still Remains (Movie Review)


Source: Arrow in the Head

About the Author

Cody is a news editor and film critic, focused on the horror arm of JoBlo.com, and writes scripts for videos that are released through the JoBlo Originals and JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channels. In his spare time, he's a globe-trotting digital nomad, runs a personal blog called Life Between Frames, and writes novels and screenplays.