SEPTEMBER 24, 2012
Several pals warned me away from Memory Of The Dead (Spanish: La memoria del muerto), but if I listened to a negative review of a movie, the only movies I ever would have seen are Back to the Future and ET (maybe Boogie Nights too. And yes, I've heard people dismiss Die Hard and Jaws). Everyone is going to have a different opinion of every movie ever, and if anything some bad word of mouth might even HELP - my expectations will be lowered and I might walk away surprised.
However, this is not one of those cases. My friends were right - this was not a very good film, and I can only hope that whatever I chose it over was just as underwhelming, or else I'll hate myself for life. As I've explained in other reviews, I'm not here the whole time, so using up a limited moviegoing slot on something forgettable and pointless is just torturous.
The main problem with Memory is that it's so tonally scattershot, I never knew what was being played for laughs and what was supposed to be taken seriously. The film begins with a fairly creepy nightmare scene, followed by the strangest death in cinema (our main character wakes up and her husband is bleeding from the mouth and about to die - no explanation is ever given). Then there's a wake, which is actually kind of moving thanks to Pablo Borghi's quite lovely score and the above average performance from Lola Berthet as the grieving wife. So far, so g- well, not too bad.
But then director Valentín Javier Diment decides that his film needs to be an homage to Evil Dead 1 and 2, so we get crazy supernaturally charged scenes without much logic behind them, seemingly played for laughs - is there a way to take household objects "laughing" seriously? The characters all split up and have their own little horror plots, all of which are paced poorly as Diment will come back to a character after 20 minutes but they will still be in the same position as we last left them. And the complete lack of any rules for the evil forces at play make them even harder to enjoy - it's impossible to tell if something is just in their head, or really happening, because we don't understand anything about the villain.
And if it's entirely played for laughs, that would be OK, because as long as we're having fun it's doing its job (that said, even the Deadites had some semblance of a clear MO). But the movie keeps dipping into tragic/dramatic territory - not sure how it's OK to laugh at a scene when it follows a character's revelation that she was molested by her father. On that note, there's a lot of incest in this movie; the girl in question also has a consensual affair with her cousin, and another character's horror vignette includes an apparition of his mother, whose affectionate motherly kisses proceed into something that involves a little more tongue. And continuing on the theme of taboo sex, a major subplot involves a character having a gay affair in order to get closer to the man's wife! Any one of these elements on their own is fine, but when you add them all together in one relatively short film, you start wondering what is up with the director on a personal level.
However, there IS a skeleton of a good movie here - if this was the first draft of the script, then perhaps 2-3 passes would have resulted in a solid film that was more worthy of inclusion in the festival. I quite liked the idea of resurrecting someone you love by sacrificing other people that loved them, because even with one person doing the planning it still potentially puts them in harm's way once the other characters figure out what's going on. Had the movie just proceeded as a straight forward slasher thriller, with the supernatural elements confined only to the ritual itself, it might have worked. And the actors are solid across the board, giving some life to characters that even on the script level had more personality than usually afforded in these sort of movies (quick, name one thing about Cheryl or Scott's life before they went to the cabin). Also, while it doesn't work on a tonal level (because of the aforementioned shifts never letting us know what's supposed to be funny or not), the ending is kind of ballsy, and probably would never happen in a studio released American horror film.
Of course, that's the problem here - ordinarily I'd say "hopefully someone will pick this up for a remake so they can do it right", but I suspect that any Americanized version would strip away its character and occasional daring attitude, and we'd be left with a streamlined Evil Dead wannabe that may improve on the original's schizophrenic nature, but lose its identity as well. Then we'd just have TWO disappointing versions of this movie. Guess it's best to just move on and hope someone merely rips it off in a few years.
What say you?