Film Review: THE CHILD REMAINS (Canada 2017)

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The Child Remains Poster
An expectant couple’s intimate weekend turns to terror as they discover their secluded country inn is a haunted maternity home where infants and mothers were murdered.

Director:

Michael Melski

 

The words ‘Inspired by True Events’ splashes on the screen at the film’s start.  This of course, can mean very little these days but here this means something as the film’s plot is actually based inspired by the early 20th century “Butterbox Babies”.

The story centres on a couple, Rae (Suzanne Clément) and Liam (Allan Hqwko).  Hawko is a music songwriter trying to make it in the music business while Rae is an expecting journalist suffering from Post Stress Traumatic Disorder (disorder that develops after exposure to a traumatic event or experience with symptoms that may include flashbacks, nightmares and intense feelings of fear or horror).  Their intimate weekend turns to terror as they discover their secluded country inn is a haunted maternity home where infants and mothers were murdered.

The film has a slow and moody first half.  Not much happens and what transpires on screen is predictable.  All that happens is  the discovery of the Inn being the former Mercy home by the pregnant guest where babies are taken away unknowingly from unexacting unwed pregnant mothers.   Director Melski uses the screen time to create a menacing atmosphere for the visiting couple.  The woman is a journalist (how appropriate as this allows her to have an investigative nature as well access to archive news) who suffers from PSTD (how appropriate as this allows her to have hallucinations)

Shelley Thompson from ‘The Trailer Park Boys” deserves credit for her role as the inn’s manager, Monica.  She is always cheery, appearing at times when least expected or when most inconvenient to her guests.  There is always something creepy about a person who always has a wide smile on her face, and Thompson nails this creepiness 100%.  Multiple Award winner Quebec actress Suzanne Clément, best known for her roles in Xavier Dolan’s films is also a pleasure to watch as the tortured character.

The film contains an unexcited twist in the plot at the end (when the audience realizes what the title of the film refers to – quite clever).  Trouble is that it is quite unbelievable for the reason that for it to happen, it will be too much of a coincidence.  The film, besides being a psychological thriller is also a ghost story so one also has to believe that ghosts not only exist but come out of the woodwork to harm the characters.

Despite all that is going for Melski’s film, THE CHILD REMAINS fails to engage the audience in its tale for a number of reasons.  The first is credibility.  The two items of  supernaturally and true events do not go together.  The other is Melski’s display of his protagonist, Jen’s character. In one scene, she is shown handing over the ointments in her room because they are chemical, which is a rude gesture.  She could have just left the ointments in the room.  In another, shed closes her lap top when Shelly is looking at the image of her baby in her womb, which is another rude gesture.  She also snaps he boyfriend and nags once too often, which makes one wonder the reason he is still putting up with her, and especially when she has PSTD.  If Melski wants the audience to route for his heroine, he should have her display a more likeable personality.  When all the plot points are finally revealed, Melski unfortunately turns his film into a horror slasher flick.

The film sends a a new meaning to the words “Inspired by True Events”.   The story may be inspired by true events but it may be totally hokum!

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cqtjq51pLzw

 

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Film Review: PERFUME WAR (Canada 2017) ***1/2

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perfume_warDirector: Michael Melski
Writers: Michael Melski, Barb Stegemann
Star: Pasha Ebrahimi

Review by Gilbert Seah

If there is ever an inspirational film that will move audiences to return their faith in the human race, PERFUME WAR is it.

Michael Melski’s fascinating documentary explores the extraordinary friendship between two best friends, Trevor and Barb whose shared mission of peace has made an enormous impact on countless lives.

The film begins with equal time devoted to each before concentrating on Barb. Captain Trevor Greene joins the military to fight the oppression of women in Afghanistan. Barb Stegemann is a single mom who is moved to take on her best friend’s mission after he is brutally axed in the head by the Taliban. Stegemann works with Afghan farmers to grow legal orange flower crops instead of the illegal heroin poppy–the Taliban’s chief income source–and creates an unlikely weapon in the fight for world peace – perfume. The topic is an interesting as it is strange. But director Melski inserts the inspirational factor into his film.

This he does firstly by dotting quotations by the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius throughout his film. Example: “Change is nature’s delight.” Next Melski inspires through the lives of both Barb and Trevor. Trevor and Barb are visionaries.

Trevor describes himself as the most driven person he knows – and one that is driven on principles, not by money. Trevor is described by Barb as the most inspirational person who changed her life completely. She is also described by her University professor as an engineer of civilization, who in his 34 years of teaching has only encountered a handful. Barb and Trevor are best friends (no sex). When Trevor met Debbie, Barb knew Debbie was the perfect one for Trevor and the three became good friends. Barb and Trevor each pushes the other towards the limit.

When the Taliban takes an axe to Trevor’s head, Trevor survives. A miracle! More inspiration! Barb decides to give her life to continue Trevor’s mission. She embarks on the business venture (even securing funds from DRAGON’S DEN) so that the business can continue and the Afghanistan farmers can continue to work.

Melski’s film is total convincing as he includes clips of the farming in Afghanistan The enactment of the meeting that resulted in the axe to Trevor’s skull is also re-enacted to full disturbing effect. Melski also debates the topic of social good vs. monetary gain. Barb had to get capital from TV’s DRAGON’s DEN.

Those who have watched DRAGON’s DEN will be pleased to see the film’s heroine pitting her wits with her social venture to the dragons who only look at the money prospects of a business venture. Dragon Kevin O’Leary obviously gives a no. But Melski shows that even dragon have consciences and a human desire to do good. Another fascinating segment of the film is devoted to how Barb beats the big companies in the perfume business.

The film is about challenge. The film is about doing what’s right and to make a difference to change the world – to make it a better one. PERFUME WARS inspires!

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GS7KteaH55U

 

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