[Review] What Still Remains (2018): A Different Kind of Zombie Apocalypse Film

What Still Remains is yet another addition to the ever growing post-apocalyptic, zombie film canon, which begs the obvious question. Do we need another post-apocalyptic zombie movie? In this case, with the exception of a caveat or two, the answer is a resounding yes!

What Still Remains tells the story of 19-year-old Anna living a solitary, wilderness existence in the Pacific northwest twenty years after a plague has swept the world. Anna finds herself alone when she loses her brother and mother shortly into the film. Having known no other way of life and having been trained as a blacksmith by her father, Anna is capable of surviving on her own. Soon she encounters Peter, a stranger in search of good people to come join his Godfull community. At first, Anna is wary of Peter and declines, but in time, he gains her trust and she joins him in the journey back to his community. The only other faction encountered in the film is a group known as Berserkers who are the nemesis of and appear to be the opposite of Peter’s self-described Godfull community.

What makes What Still Remains worth a watch is the uniqueness of a post-apocalyptic zombie film without zombies. Strange as it might seem, zombies do not make an appearance; they are only referred to as the Changed. In fact, Anna has never seen one of the Changed. Writer and director Josh Mendoza does an excellent job in his first feature creating strong characters behaving in a well-developed world. Matt Edwards’ cinematography adds to the package by supporting Mendoza’s vision and taking full advantage of the beautiful setting.

The film bears some similarities with AMC’s The Walking Dead in terms of the different factions and the post-apocalyptic world. What drives this story, however, is the ambiguous nature of every character except Anna. It is impossible to tell who is “bad” and who is “good.” The Berserkers and Peter’s community seem to be on opposite ends of a philosophical and moral scale while at the same time, using similar language to proclaim the righteousness of their cause. In some ways, What Still Remains is the story of the conflict resulting from the apparent polarity between two extreme religious philosophies.

Lulu Antariksa, in her first role in a feature film, is superb as Anna. She models a strength of character and conviction, surely molded by her family in their isolation, that holds up against ideologues from both sides. In support of the story, the rest of the actors are deft at fostering ambiguity, making it all work. Colin O’Donoghue’s Peter is perfectly difficult to read, exuding kindliness and integrity with just a whiff of deceptiveness. The two leads are given strong support from veteran actors Mimi Rogers, Jeff Kober, and Dohn Norwood as the elders of Peter’s community, and from Peter O’Brien as the leader of the Berserkers. Chris Ellis also makes an impact as a key character in a pivotal scene, rounding out the standout performances of the cast.

What Still Remains is a very well made film, but don’t forget the caveats mentioned at the outset. First, no zombies. Second, if you’re a gorehound, you won’t find much. There’s definitely violence and some mayhem, just not much gore. Finally, though there is action, it is not an action driven film. So there you have it. If you don’t mind a character-driven zombie apocalypse with no zombies and very little gore you should enjoy this film. The true nature of the characters and the factions should keep you guessing.

What Still Remains 3.8 out of 5 stars (3.8 / 5)

Jeff Mohr
Jeff lives smack dab in the middle of the cornfields of Iowa and is a long-time horror fan. His first remembered encounters with the genre were The Wizard of Oz, Tarzan gorilla chases, and watching the first broadcast of The Twilight Zone episode, "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge." While he now qualifies as an old fart, he strives to be an Old Boy. Paraphrasing Robert Bloch, he has the heart of a small boy. He keeps it in a jar on his desk.

Jeff has written for Horrornews.net and SQ Horror Magazine. He currently writes for Gruesome Magazine and is a co-host of the Decades of Horror podcasts - The Classic Era, 1970s, and 1980s - and the Gruesome Magazine Podcast.