Residue is a Lovecraftian detective tale with a touch of family drama sprinkled into the cracks. The story centers on Luke Harding (James Clayton), a low-rent Private Investigator who specializes in surveillance. He lives is a rundown apartment and seems to be just ahead of abject poverty.


Harding has been hired by Fairweather to follow ten people and try to find them doing something wrong.  Fairweather is some sort of mob boss played by the always delightful Matt Frewer (who you may remember as Max Headroom).  Harding makes good with nine of his missions, but fails at the tenth. As a reward he is offered a lot of money to deliver a package to the last man on his list.


Before he can make the delivery, he and the two goons with him are attacked by the henchmen of a rival crime lord and Harding flees with the package. In short order he discovers that the package is a journal and he starts to read it.


It’s the story of an explorer who, along with two companions, discovered some sort of creature in the jungle. They killed it and buried it and then went on about their expedition. But, the journal writer starts to describe hallucinations, paranoia, and difficulty keeping track of time.  As he reads, the same things happen to Harding.


He starts the recorder on his phone to keep a log of what he reads and what he thinks about it. After a few minutes his phone announces that its storage is full, which surprises him. He replays the recording and finds that a lot of time has passed and that he has described the opening of the journal over and over again.


We learn that the rival crime boss is the cigarette smoking man from The X-Files (William B. Davis) and he is amazed to learn that Harding has managed to read eighteen pages of the journal in only a single day. He wants Harding to finish reading it, and sets two goons to watch him from a distance.


The more he reads, the more reality starts to get out of whack. He cannot keep track of time, he hallucinates. Some of his hallucinations may be real, since one of them scratches him and leaves lasting wounds. 


We get glimpses of strange, Cronenberg inspired slug creatures, and tentacle monsters, and demons maybe. It’s a lot, but it always works in the moment.  The evil that creeps out of the book starts to effect people nearby. A neighbor murders her husband, believing that he has morphed into her dead uncle.  The hired goons find themselves also missing time and facing a haunting of sorts. While all of this is going on, Harding’s estranged daughter comes to stay with him, and the movie starts to shift focus.


This is the weakest part of the story.  His daughter Angelina (Taylor Hickson) is fine as a character. But the family drama seems small compared to the eldritch monsters in the closet and the hinted apocalypse that we assume the book could unleash.


The movie has a lot of fun with the effects. Harding has several conversations with a character that has been murdered, and has no head above the lower jaw. Harding hears his voice, but others hear only the buzzing of flies.  This is all very funny in a very mordant way.


The main problem is that the last act will lean into the family drama and away from any real existential threat to survival.  The finale is a big letdown. We expect that the hero will either die horribly or somehow save the world. We don’t expect the big climax to be him and his daughter repairing their relationship. This material needs bigger stakes.


Residue is very entertaining and works fine for most of its run time. It seems like the last act goes off the rails, but even then you wont feel cheated by. Just don’t stand up while you’re watching it. Stay seated.

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