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Memory of the Dead (2011)
DVD Released: 2/25/2014
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/7/2014
I don't know if I would consider myself a foreign film connoisseur, but I’ve been known to enjoy a movie from another country. I went through my Italian and Asian horror phases, and I would certainly never pass on a movie simply because it was foreign. However, one thing I don’t miss is the “Is it them or is it me?” feeling I sometimes get with foreign films. This happens when a movie simply doesn’t gel or make sense and one is left to wonder if it’s a cultural thing where the movie won’t work for someone outside of that country or if it’s a simply a bad movie. This creates a disorienting and unsatisfying feeling. Memory of the Dead creates this feeling much more, offering a film where logic was clearly not a primary focus.
Alicia (Lola Berthet) dreams that he husband, Jorge (Gabriel Goity), dies a horrible death. She awakens to find him actually bleeding to death beside her. (I assume he had an aneurysm -- the movie never tells us.) Months later, she draws together several friends -- Hugo (Luis Ziembrowski), Nicanor (Matias Marmorato), Monica (Lorena Vega), Ivana (Flora Gro), Mauro (Rafael Ferro), and Fabiana (Jimena Anganuzzi) -- for a wake and to unveil a painting of Jorge done by Nicanor. After reading a letter from Jorge and showing the portrait, the group goes to bed. However, at midnight, something strange happens. Alicia announces that the evening was planned as a way to resurrect Jorge. However, her plan has also unleashed the spirits of other deceased individuals who will torment those gathered for the event.
Memory of the Dead is one of those movies where if I were to explain the entire story to you, it would sound coherent. However, while watching the film, things don’t fall into place so easily. Things get off to an OK start. The opening dream sequence is effective and the notion of drawing together the friends flows naturally. (Although it’s not clear why Alicia waited so long. Was she waiting on the painting or was it part of the ritual?) If you’ve seen Manos: Hands of Fate, the infamously bad movie made famous by Mystery Science Theater 3000, it will instantly spring to mind once the painting is unveiled. Once Alicia lets on what is about to happen and how she plans to bring back Jorge, things are a little vague, but still work, especially when she lays down the one ground rule: As long as they stay in the house, they will be safe. The film even shows someone breaking this rule as a way of illustrating it.
But, then things begin to go very awry. Simply put, the house is filled with vengeful spirits...who get into the house...somehow. We are never told what triggers this or what someone did wrong to make this happen, but what looked like it was going to be a zombie movie suddenly becomes a tale where every character is tormented by someone from their past. The movie then begins to cut back and forth between the various characters confronting these ghosts. The editing becomes very questionable during this phase, as Memory of the Dead will often wait too long to get back to a specific storyline, making us exclaim, “Oh yeh, I forgot about that guy.” The story then goes back to Alicia’s plan and finally a twist ending is revealed.
I’ve read some comments online which imply that Memory of the Dead is a non-stop gorefest. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The movie does contain some violent moments, but the pacing is fairly slack throughout. There is a gory setpiece that offers a twisted idea which will certainly gain your attention, but it too, is oddly paced, and Director Valentin Javier Diment makes the odd choice and leaving the scene and coming back to it several times. The truth is that Diment and his co-writers have attempted to squeeze so many sub-genres into Memory of the Dead (ghost story, zombie movie, “old dark house” movie) that it has no idea what it wants to be. The movie wants us to be shocked by the twist ending, but by that point, most viewers will have long since been done with the movie. Memory of the Dead may sound titillating on the surface, as it offers some gore, some nudity, and one “how did they do that?” moment, but, in the end, the movie is boring and the only thing I learned was that people from Argentina apparently have issues with people from Paraguay.
Memory of the Dead implies that cockroaches in the bathroom are no big deal in Argentina on DVD courtesy of Artsploitation Films. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source material. The bold colors (which lean more towards Schumacher than Argento) look fine here and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is acceptable, but the picture is somewhat soft and flat at times. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects have some nice moments, as does the surround sound, as they illustrate noises coming from around the house. We also get some nice bass effects during the “shock” moments. The problem with this DVD is that the English subtitles, which are clear and easy to read, aren’t very accurate and we get the feel that whoever did the translation was not fluent in English.
The only extra feature on the Memory of the Dead DVD is a TRAILER for the film.
Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long