We don't see too much Argentine film in the US, so it's nice to see a solid offering turn up, especially in the horror genre. La Memoria del Muerto a/k/a Memory of the Dead is a sharp, contained horror film, that amps up the weirdness and generates a solid ninety minutes of gonzo spectacle.
Jorge (Gabriel Goity) is a hearty man in the prime of health, with an adoring wife and a lovely estate. It's something of a shock to Alicia (Lola Berthet), the wife, when she wakes up one morning to find him dead. She is bereft at the loss of her lover and helpmate, but does manage several months later to arrange for a group of Jorge's closest friends to assemble at the estate to spend a weekend of fond remembrance and memorializing of their lost comrade.
Of course, this being a scary type movie, there's more going on here than is obvious, and odd things start to happen rather quickly. After ambiguously gay painter Nicanor (Matias Marmorato) has unveiled his wicked looking portrait of his deceased friend, the group breaks up. But Ivana (Flora Gro), Jorge's friend Mauro's (Rafael Ferro) girlfriend, sees a little girl out the window who looks just like her dead daughter. Even though Hugo (Luis Ziembrowski), who seems to know more about this than he should, urges her to stay inside where she'll be safe, Ivana rushes out to embrace the girl, and bad consequences ensue.
Things get pretty chaotic at that point, there are fist fights and recriminations, and the small group is split up around the estate, where they are tortured with visions of their past. Monica (Lorena Vega) sees her molester father and mother who looked the other way, Mauro is haunted by a former girlfriend who died, Nicanor gets his teeth pulled out by a demonic child, etc. All of this is leading to something horrible, and just when we think we've got it all figured out, there's a twist. The final reveal isn't too difficult to figure out, but it takes a while, and the road to that understanding is an enjoyable one.
Memory of the Dead is replete with strange and disturbing imagery, and mind boggling camera angles and movements. The influences of Raimi and Argento are pretty strong, but spun enough to be a unique sensibility of its own. The blood and gore are inventive and delightfully over the top. (The tongue ripping gag is a particular highlight.) The performances are dead on and totally in tune with the sensibility and tone of the film.
This is a fun film, and doesn't take itself too seriously, but still manages to provide a pervasive sense of disquiet, and even a few genuine scares. It's off the wall and outré, but in a charming way. (It's not the strangest Argentine film I've seen. That honor goes to Animalada, whose oddity was distinctly not charming.) Memory of the Dead has a lot to offer gorehounds, and those who simply enjoy a film that strays from the normal path. It's Recommended.
The video is 2.35:1 widescreen, and looks quite good. The colors are bright and rich, and pop off the screen, really highlighting the gore. It almost has a Giallo feel of unreality. This is a good looking film and transfer.
Audio is available in Spanish 5.1 channel and 2 channel Dolby, with English subtitles available. It sounds good, with lots of subtle creeks and spookiness, but no hiss or other audio problems.
Sadly, there are no extras other than some trailers. It would have been quite interesting to get a look behind the scenes of this gonzo gem. The trailers included are: Memory of the Dead, Hidden in the Woods, Horror Stories, Toad Road and Wither.
Memory of the Dead's aggressive, off kilter sensibility isn't for everyone, but it has a lot going for it. I have a special regard for filmmakers who don't feel bound by the normal strictures of genre and just make the kinds of movies they like, even if they aren't totally successful. This film has its own unique vision, and it's a compelling and intriguing one.