by Michael Treveloni
Love is a justification for a lot of horrible, horrible things. It’s been the genesis of wars, murders, cons and all other manner of destructive rages. Like a gateway emotion to a gauntlet of positive/negative feelings it lurks, percolating, waiting to give us the hot poison and send us into the world, convinced that whatever crusade we’re on is rightly appropriate.
Anchoring these sentiments are husband and wife Jorge (Gabriel Goity) and Alicia (Lola Berthet), two lovers with a bond cemented all the way through to the afterlife. Foreseeing his early departure from this world, Jorge teaches Alicia a ritual that can jumpstart his pulse back from the grave. All that’s required is a house full of love. Keeping the secret to herself, Alicia sets to work. Friends are gathered, Jorge’s life is celebrated, and pretty soon everyone is misty-eyed. The sun sets, drinks are had, the clock strikes midnight and a dead girl appears ominously on a swing set outside. Alicia’s plan is underway.
Building slowly on the intertwined relationships of all involved, Memory of the Dead unscrupulously snakes down an ever constricting entropic path. Ghosts and ghouls begin to manifest themselves to the group. Why they are there though isn’t so obvious, at least to some of the party. For the guests, the haunts are more than just monsters, they are reminders of things left on the wayside. Some come violently, others in the form of internal demons; past horrors reasoned into acceptance, dulled in vibrancy over the years until this night where the scab is seemingly ripped off. One man learns of an unborn child he fathered. Another woman sees the horror her mother faced when an unspeakable family tragedy occurred. Worse than that, we learn how easily pacified one can be when receiving the one thing they wants more than anything.
Memory of the Dead wears its influences on a barbed wire sleeve and has no problem raking it across your eyeballs. With gracious nods to Evil Dead, Peter Jackson, and even Nekromantik 2, along with lighting that would make Argento proud; its obvious the film really wants to play with the big boys. And like any good, gory horror film, it offers up the red stuff in rivers. Opting for practical effects over CG, the film has sense of throwback charm (one scene in particular shows just how far a slip of the tongue can go) and can be a fun slice of comedic terror. Still, even with all the gore, it is the human side of the story that provides the most horrific moments.
Unfortunately it’s smart when it wants to be, dumb at other points. A scene of women wrestling in blood appears for the sake of having a scene where women wrestle in blood. It’s fun, but distracting. It is a dessert with lots of extra toppings, great if you’re into it, not so much if you have a mouthful of cavities. Director Javier Diment’s inability to decide on a tone adds to its dropped egg effect, staining its uniform with an uneven smattering of humor and dark drama.
Like a three legged horse at a full clip, Memory of the Dead is a clumsy beast. It isn’t winning any races, but it’ll crush you if you let it get too close. Suffering from clunky pacing and some overindulgent, deranged bits, the film isn’t as good as it could have been. In the end, Memory of the Dead is just a brazen love story with a goofy sneer; a face that tells us: when the sun comes up what we inflict on ourselves is the real danger at play.
The Upside: Great effects will keep the gore-hounds frothing.
The Downside: If you like incest. It has it. Not to mention it drags a bit at points.
On the Side: The Argentinian horror scene isn’t very well-known at the moment. Director Javier Diment expressed how it is relatively ignored outside of the underground community.