SEPTEMBER 11, 2011
Echo Bridge recently sent me two multi-packs of horror films, some of them even theatrical releases (Mother’s Boys, Darkness), and a few others I’ve already reviewed; I now own two copies of 2:13 – jealous? Also some of them are really long, with one clocking in at 144 minutes (!), which is why I opted to go with Memory as my first choice, being a scant 98 minutes. But it also boasted a decent lineup of actors, which meant I could be assured it wasn’t one of those backyard movies like Disturbed (which was also on an Echo Bridge multi-pack).
And it wasn’t too bad! It seemed very cable movie at times, borderline Lifetime original, but it had a sort of breezy charm to it that I was not expecting, being that it was about a child murderer. But it’s rare that I find any sort of legitimate drama contained in DTV horror movies, so the subplot about hero Billy Zane researching Alzheimer’s cures while his mother slowly died from the disease was an interesting touch. Also, and especially after the last three HMAD entries, the characters were all likable and charming. If anything they might have been TOO amiable at times; they constantly rib each other and remind us how important they are to one another, with Zane asking his buddy about his kid’s baseball game and father figure Dennis Hopper (RIP) giving Zane’s new girlfriend a warm welcome when they meet for the first time, including more of that “aw shucks” sort of teasing all around. At times I felt like I was at a wedding rehearsal dinner that I was not invited to, and of course all of this stuff occasionally made me wonder if this was even really a horror movie.
But it is, with a fairly decent spin on the usual serial killer plot. Our killer goes after children, but when he takes a child (still alive) he places the body of his previous victim and burns it beyond identification, which leads to some big third act revelations about who characters really are and how they relate to each other. As it is based on a novel, I’m sure it’s more fleshed out there, as I was never quite sure WHY he was going to all of this trouble, but it’s a unique hook all the same. Also, most of the killings were in the 70s, and Zane is seeing them as dreams due to a new discovery that memories can be passed down via genetic code. Again, this probably makes more sense in the novel, but hey, it’s a lot better than the usual biblical killer crap.
I also liked that it took place in Boston, and the Canadian locales were a decent match. Plus they took the time to get a few geographic details correct; Tricia Helfer’s artist character has a gallery on Newbury, and the street they used looked about right (and Newbury does indeed house several galleries; if they said something like Memorial Drive I would cry foul). However, as with the attempts to make the characters personable, they go overboard; nearly every scene has someone wearing a Boston shirt (or Harvard/MIT), or a Red Sox hat. It’s like they never heard of the phrase “less is more”. No one has the accent though, thankfully.
It’s also got a great creepy climax, with a room full of corpses set up like some sort of horrible art installation, plus the killer wearing a porcelain doll mask and taunting Zane as he tries to navigate around the hanging bodies (and of course, one body is actually the killer remaining still). The identity of the killer isn’t too hard to figure out – I don’t know why they would separate the present day and the time of the killings by 30 years and then only give us two viable suspects – but at least the character isn’t wasted before then, like other films that have this sort of dual timeline scenario. Whiteout comes to mind, where Tom Skerritt (the ONLY possible suspect of the diamond theft/plane crash event) had nothing to do until he was revealed as the bad guy; at least our veteran actor has an actual point in the movie before we find out they are also our killer.
It’s a bit sloppy at times though. Zane spends quite a lot of the movie reading things aloud to himself, so you’d think he’d be good enough at it to say the words right; at one point he says “Vasquez” when it clearly says “Valdez” on the page he’s reading. And there’s a fake AIM type program that he uses at one point, with a closeup of the “Budy” list. It also suffers from the weirdest compression/mastering/whatever error I’ve ever seen in a movie – the transfer is actually quite good for an EB release, but whenever there’s a bright red in the film it appears all blocky and aliased. At first I thought it was just a poor CGI effect, but then I noticed real world objects (keypads, exit signs) also had the same issue, which is a problem when a big part of the climax is set in a red-lit room. I honestly can’t think of another movie where I’ve seen this particular issue, but it was quite distracting to say the least.
When looking up the film to verify its shooting location I discovered two things: one, the standalone DVD, also from Echo Bridge, had a bunch of bonus features, including a commentary, and two, writer/director Bennett Davlin (who also wrote the book) is in love with himself. I began to suspect as much just from the credits, which listed his source material several times (including a flat out “Please read the book” message at the TOP of the end credits!), but the Wikipedia page for the movie is mostly about him and lists at least a dozen pages about him at the end (as opposed to reviews of the film, like pretty much every other Wiki page about a movie). And in a review of the DVD, they point out that the making of and commentary is mostly self-congratulatory nonsense, with Davlin even claiming that every studio in town wanted the script but he did it his way so he could direct it himself. Thus, if it’s true, he’s a goon (it’s not a particularly well directed movie, with lots of awkward center-framed shots where the actors almost seem to be looking into the lens), and gave up the chance to see his beloved material handled by a skilled director (not to mention, if it had a budget they might have been able to shoot in Boston proper). And if it’s a lie, well, then he’s just a dirty liar. In short, it’s the rare case where I am happy that the bonus features haven’t been ported over to this multi-title release. I’ll take some Teri Hatcher pilot called Momentum that never got picked up over some dude trying to convince me how talented he is.
What say you?