Writer-director Josh Mendoza finds a fresh angle on the post-apocalyptic thriller with “What Still Remains,” a well-acted, low-budget drama, set in a world that’s moved a full generation beyond a devastating plague. Forget “28 Days Later” and “28 Weeks Later” — Mendoza’s film is more like “28 Years Later,” showing what happens to humanity after a world-ending threat subsides.
“What Still Remains” initially seems slow and over-explanatory. The movie follows Anna (Lulu Antariksa), born after “the Change,” and raised in relative isolation. When her mom dies and her brother disappears, Anna hits the road, where she encounters Peter (Colin O’Donoghue), a handsome fellow who helps protect her from “the Berserkers,” a vagabond clan that pretends to be diseased.
The heroine appreciates the company, until she arrives at Peter’s fortified compound and finds out he belongs to a paranoid religious order that punishes outsiders and demands newcomers submit to the collective. That’s when the purpose of Mendoza’s deliberate pacing becomes clear. For the film’s first half, he’s laying out the circumstances that would lead a young woman to consider joining a cult.
There are more arguments than action sequences in “What Still Remains,” and though it gets more tense in its second half, the movie overall is a bit too sedate. Still, a great cast (including vets Mimi Rogers, Dohn Norwood and Jeff Kober) brings Mendoza’s ideas to life. The result is a fascinating “what if,” imagining society’s possible future.
‘What Still Remains’
Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes.
Playing: Starts Aug. 10, Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills