The story of the Butterbox Babies resides in one of the darkest chapters of Canadian history. From 1928 to 1945 a home for unwed mothers on the South Shore of Nova Scotia sold and otherwise disposed of babies, allegedly burying the unwanted tots in “butter boxes” or wooden crates from the local grocery. The dastardly goings-on at the Ideal Maternity Home lie at the heart of a spooky new film from East Coast filmmaker Michael Melski.
The film sets the scene with a flashback to the horrible heyday of the Mersey Home for the Unwed. A young mother and her baby are separated and disposed of by the vicious proprietors of the home.
Cut to decades later. The house of horrors is now a charming country inn run by Monica (Shelley Thompson), the stern but welcoming owner. Checking in are journalist Rae (Suzanne Clément) and musician Liam (Alan Hawco), a husband and wife looking forward to celebrating her birthday. Immediately the pregnant Rae is uneasy, plagued by unsettling visions of a woman’s ghostly figure and a bloody door. Liam writes off the apparitions as PTSD, related to some of the hard-hitting work Rae does as a crime reporter. As spooky stuff continues to happen Rae’s curiosity kicks in. She begins an investigation that lead to places she could never have imagined in her wildest nightmares.
“The Child Remains” is a slow burn horror film that values atmosphere over action. Director Melski massages the gothic horror elements of the story, allowing the tension to build as the characters are subjected to mounting dread.
Aiding Melski are some nice genre performances from Thompson and Géza Kovács as henchman Talbot. As Monica, Thompson rides the line between matronly and malevolent while Kovács has a face made for genre movies.
Hawco and Clément create a believable family unit whose relationship drives the plot. As the going gets weird—and it does take a shift toward 1980s slasher conventions near the end—it is crucial the audience want the best for them, and we do.
“The Child Remains” takes an interesting approach to the psychodrama story. Blending genres to create a tale it requires more suspension of disbelief near the climax than I would have liked but nonetheless should send a chill up the spines of horror fans.