The Child Remains movie review: A maternal nightmare

The Child Remains courtesy Uncork'd Entertainment
The Child Remains courtesy Uncork'd Entertainment /

A parent’s worst nightmare comes to life in the maternal psychological horror film, The Child Remains, starring Suzanne Clement of Mommy.

Babies are often seen as the definition of innocence and with their developing brains and newfound discovery of the rest of the outside world, it’s hard to argue that they don’t earn that title. Babies are transformed into beacons of hope for the future by us cynical adults who hope that the future is in good hands, so anything harmful to a baby is automatically framed as something immensely immoral. This is what makes the psychological horror-thriller, The Child Remains, so terrifying in its concept.

Harm being done to babies is already an incredibly unpleasant thought to cross through the mind, no matter just HOW irritated one may be with children. Babies are defenseless in the face of real danger, so any harm done to them is just something we frame as cruel and unnecessary.

The Child Remains, from director Michael Melski, brings the audience uncomfortably close to infantile horror that is apparently inspired by a true-life story in a similar vein to this one as we are thrust into a mystery concerning a country inn’s dark past and its presence in the current day.

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The Child Remains is far from the first horror film to delve into infantile horror, with titles like Rosemary’s BabyInsideKilling Ground, and Pet Sematary centering its conflict on the well-being of a baby.

Sometimes it’s a possession story, other times the life of a baby is in danger thanks to more human threats. The Child Remains chooses to remain firmly in the dark until the revealing third act, making for a mystery film centered on a disturbing past. How does it hold up in the final product?

The Child Remains courtesy Uncork’d Entertainment
The Child Remains courtesy Uncork’d Entertainment /

Tiny skeletons in the closet

The Child Remains may be a mystery, but that doesn’t stop it from tipping part of its hand a little early, revealing a horrific sequence that involves the burial of live newborns at a home for unwed mothers.

The sequence reveals that the home is not all that it’s hyped up to be, with new mothers and their babies being subjected to torture and murder, though the reason for such actions is not quite revealed yet. This is the mystery that drives Melski’s film and provides the bulk of the horror that is to come.

This horror is experienced firsthand by Rae (Suzanne Clement) and Liam (Allan Hawco), an expectant couple who move to a secluded country inn owned by Monica (Shelley Thompson). This inn just so happens to be the previous home for the tainted home for unwed mothers, whose presence continue to be felt by Rae, who seems to have a strange connection to the spirits in the house.

From there, we get a mystery-horror focused on the horrors of the past haunting the present in a surprisingly disturbing look at the reality behind this country inn.

The Child Remains aims to disturb with the horrific implications of what the home did to the mothers and babies that it sheltered and apart from one grisly sequence, the film keeps the imagery of babies suffering to a bare minimum, relying on sound cues and frantic editing to lessen the impact from the atrocities committed.

Sometimes this can lead to otherwise disturbing sequences not being given enough time to sit with the viewer and in a horror film, something needs to stick.

Despite that, the movie’s highlights are undeniably the various horror sequences that Rae experiences as she begins to receive visions of what happened at the home in the past. There is just enough unsettling imagery to fill up the runtime and it’s the kind of imagery that manages to hold significant weight to it without feeling too far-fetched or try hard. When Rae receives vision, it allows the film to revel in its surreal atmosphere before being brought back to the real world.

The Child Remains courtesy Uncork’d Entertainment
The Child Remains courtesy Uncork’d Entertainment /

An infant murder mystery

The imagery is only enhanced by the spectacular performance of Suzanne Clement as Rae, who has to deal with life outside of work AND preparing for her own baby to come in addition to the disturbing visions she receives in her new home. Clement has previously shown her acting talent in Xavier Dolan films, most notably the highly underrated Mommy, and she shows that talent in The Child Remains as a woman suffering from PTSD as she slowly loses her sense of sanity and logic in the house.

Her powerful performance serves as the driving force of The Child Remains going alongside the mystery behind the home and luckily, those two factors play a prominent role in the film. The strongest aspects of the story and acting keep the movie engaging and genuinely speedy, which is a nice positive to see after another chunk of the film is dedicated to the deteriorating relationship between Rae and Liam.

There’s a backstory involving the various problems the couple have had in the past, in addition to Liam’s own struggles as a failing musician, that never really develop beyond the surface meaning of the two having tensions in their marriage. The movie’s story focuses heavily on the mystery behind the inn, yet the time afforded to these scenes of tension feel delivered out of left field, taking away from the intriguing story of the inn for relationship drama that feels less like a valid subplot and more of a way to pad the running time.

The Child Remains courtesy Uncork’d Entertainment
The Child Remains courtesy Uncork’d Entertainment /

It’s this story where The Child Remains often grinds to a halt, as neither character (Rae a little more) is deeply developed to the point of justifying this much time being given to these scenes. Both of them start to feel affected by the supernatural presence in the inn, but the rules concerning the logic of the supposed hauntings remain unclear even after the movie’s end, making for a definitive, yet loosely-tied finale that feels as though it left certain questions unanswered without enough polish to justify the open-ended nature of the third act.

It’s a shame that the story often gets sidelined by the less interesting subplot, because The Child Remains has genuinely high potential in its disturbing story and surprisingly effective horror imagery. There are some sequences and concepts tackled in this movie that most mainstream horror films wouldn’t even think of touching and writing this review now, I still have some of the moments of the film seared into my brain. The potential is there.

Unfortunately, it gets sidelined by a subplot involving not-fully-realized characters arguing and debating the mental state of Rae, which can certainly lead to interesting discussions, but they are often boiled down to “You’re sick and you need help.” It’s another take on the classic “spouse doesn’t believe a thing despite very obvious signs that something is wrong” trope and for a potentially great concept in The Child Remains, it only seems to serve as a placeholder rather than a story enhancer.

That being said, for all of The Child Remains’ faults, Michael Melski is a director that I will personally keep an eye out for in the future. The passion for storytelling is there and his take on the supernatural haunting story left me rattled at points with the various horror sequences that manage to come across as impressive, despite the presumably low budget. A great performance from Suzanne Clement to boot as well and we have a flawed, yet intriguing horror mystery that will certainly leave you sitting on the film long after it’s finished.

Just don’t watch this with a baby in the vicinity. No need for infant trauma.

Ma: 3 major questions left unanswered. dark. Next

The Child Remains is out now in theaters and on streaming! Have you heard of the movie? If you have, do you plan on seeing it? What’s your favorite horror movie involving babies? Sound off below!