Written and directed by Josh Mendoza, WHAT STILL REMAINS is a suspenseful apocalyptic thriller which immediately grasps your attention and holds it captive for 92 minutes. In all honesty, this is not my favorite genre, but Mendoza has crafted a gripping tale of loneliness and the promise of a better existence.
Anna (Lulu Antariksa) and her brother, David (Roshon Fegan) are out hunting when the beserkas find them. David is injured and urges Anna to return home to their mother, JoAnn (Siena Goines), who is dying. Life is brutal and Anna must be wary of everyone. Alone and believing her brother dead, she maintains the family homestead, living in fear of the diseased marauders until a stranger named Peter (Colin O'Donoghue) appears and convinces her to follow him back to his "safe" community.
Along the way, Anna and Peter encounter others who are not diseased, but prove to be dangerous nonetheless. When Peter saves her and delivers her to his community, Anna realizes that life with him is no better than life in a prison. A captured beserka provides the perfect foil for Anna's escape, but even that is threatened when a full-blown attack ensues on Peter and his followers.
Mendoza has created a plausible universe in the aftermath of an apocalypse. None of the situations are too far-fetched to render them unbelievable. And the cast is more than solid. Antariksa and O'Donoghue are evenly matched and exude a palpable chemistry. And surprise --- Mimi Rogers plays Judith, one of the elders in Peter's tribe, and nemesis to Anna.
The entire cast is terrific which lends strong credibility to WHAT STILL REMAINS. Mendoza maintains an energetic pace, keeping his film riveting from beginning to end.
Opinion: See It Now!
Building its plot slowly, the female protagonist of WHAT STILL REMAINS, played by Lulu Antariksa, finds herself essentially a 19-year-old orphan in a future world devastated by disease. She somewhat reluctantly joins a community of "normal" humans, i.e., those who have not been affected by the dread illness, but soon learns she is a prisoner in a cult. And like most cults, the male leaders are not shy about "sharing" attractive females.
As Anna, Antartiksa is a true heroine with whom an audience can empathize. Peter (Colin O'Donoghue) is the cult's pastor who invites her to join his "family". He is handsome and magnanimous, but can he be trusted? The rest of the cast are veteran actors, including some familiar faces, albeit largely unknown by name. One exception would be the appearance of Mimi Rogers.
The fun and mystery of WHAT STILL REMAINS lies in its ability to intrigue us. We're never completely sure how things will unfold, and at a trim 92 minutes, the film doesn't waste dialogue or wear out its welcome. While en route on foot to his community, Anna and Peter run into a father and son with questionable motives. Sensing a real threat, Peter springs into action, and writer/director Josh Mendoza's film is off and running. It is just one of several truly suspenseful scenes.
While not in a class with a cult picture like ROSEMARY'S BABY (1968) --- which was extremely creepy then, and remains so now --- or even MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE (2011) with Elizabeth Olsen, WHAT STILL REMAINS is a solid effort, especially since it is Mendoza's feature length debut, both for writing and directing.
Opinion: See It Now!