PHFF 2022 Capsule Review: What Is Buried Must Remain

In What is Buried Must Remain, three young filmmakers living in Lebanon lock themselves inside a supposedly haunted house for the night hoping to catch a ghost on camera. Each of the three have their own reasons for entering the house and tensions rise as they soon realize they’re trapped in a hell on earth.

Directed by Elias Matar (Ashes, Ribbons) and written by Matar, Edward E. Romero (Ashes, Ribbons), Israa Samman, and Hamza Zahab, What is Buried Must Remain was created through an organization founded by Matar that helps Syrian refugees in Lebanon pursue the arts, among other things. The filmmakers and actors in the group decided to make a horror film together, and this is the result. The found-footage style film quickly goes from your standard haunted house film to something deeper as it deals with topics such as the lengths Syrian refugees had to go to in order to survive. It’s a very well thought-out and intricate plot that at first seems a bit confusing, and at times you might even think there are editing or continuity errors, but everything comes together nicely by the time the credits roll.

Since I am not well versed in Syrian or Lebanese culture, some of the acting is difficult to critique because of the cultural differences. That being said, overall the cast is enjoyable to watch. The set is great because it is simplistic in that it is a dilapidated old house, but the camera work makes it feel like a never-ending maze. The makeup and effects for the ghosts might feel a bit rudimentary, but since the focus of the film is more of a character study and given the background of the film, this is easy to overlook. What is Buried Must Remain was definitely one of the surprise hits of this year’s Portland Horror Film Festival.

What is Buried Must Remain is a haunting film that uses supernatural terrors to examine real-life evils.


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