Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Artsploitation Films' MEMORY OF THE DEAD (2011) DVD: Proof That Foreign Horror Isn't Dead

Memory of the Dead (2011)
85 min

Buy the Blu-ray or DVD

The Movie

Foreign horror may not be quite as prevalent these days as it was during the J-Horror boom of the early 2000s, but it certainly hasn't gone anywhere, and as MEMORY OF THE DEAD proves, it's still crazy as ever.

MEMORY is a film that I hadn't heard much about until about until earlier this year, despite it having been made almost three years ago. Lucky for us, the fine folks over at Artsploitation Films have given this Argentinian film a proper release here in the States.

The synopsis (from Artsploitation's site) is as follows:
Following the sudden death of her husband, Alicia assembles all his friends at a vast country manor for a reading of his final letter. But Alicia also has other plans in mind – helping her husband return from the grave with a spell that will put all of the gathered guests in mortal danger.
It may sound pretty simple at first glance, but MEMORY OF THE DEAD is anything but a straight-forward film. In fact, it's mind-boggling at times, bringing the the old "Cabin In The Woods" trope to a whole new level. Granted, there's no cabin or woods here, but this is very much the story of a group of friends who gather in a remote location only to fall victim to evil forces, and the twists that Director ValentĂ­n Javier Diment throws into the narrative are clever and, quite frankly, weird as hell. Try to imagine Sam Raimi's THE EVIL DEAD mixed with the visual style of Dario Argento or Mario Bava, and you're on the right track.

The images in MEMORY are very beautiful, and yet they are sometimes repulsive as well. The physical effects and gore in the film are simply something that we don't see enough of these days. Aberrant mutations and body horror combine here, giving us moments that will surely make even the most die-hard horror fan cringe. If you have an aversion to eyeball violence or dental horror, then this one will definitely have you cowering. There's also exploding heads, dismemberment, and all sorts of other goodies.

And yet, even with all of this gore and mayhem, there's still a darkly comic undertone to the entire movie. It's not slapstick-gore like DEAD ALIVE, or witty banter like SHAUN OF THE DEAD. Instead, what we get here is black comedy buried under the cover of a horrific fairytale nightmare, and it worked very well for me. Still, even if you don't get the humor in the film, you have recognize the inventive manner in which the story unfolds.

That's not to say that MEMORY OF THE DEAD is perfect; because it's not. Even at a lean 89 minutes, the film does drag in a couple places. However, I was willing to forgive those moments because the rest of what's there is just so mesmerizing. I also have to admit that the story was a tad to abstract at times, and its plot twists did become a little convoluted, causing me to get lost a couple times on first viewing. Still, by the end, things make sense, and I appreciate that Diment isn't afraid to deviate from the standard formula.

And maybe that says a lot about domestic horror films. US-made cinema may throw dirt and grime on the canvas, and give us brutal violence at times, but overall, American filmmakers rarely take as many risks as some of their overseas counterparts. It could be cultural, but ultimately, that confidence in the weird and abstract material is what continues to draw me to look abroad for hidden cinematic treasure. MEMORY OF THE DEAD is the type of find that makes me happy to keep searching. Even if you are adverse to subtitled films, give this one a chance; there's a lot to like about it, and it will probably surprise you as it did me.

Movie Score



Artsploitation brings MEMORY OF THE DEAD to US Home Video in a barebones DVD.

Video Quality (4/5)

This is isn't a Blu-ray, so don't expect a wonderful HD transfer of the film. However, when upscaled to 1080p on a good Blu-ray player, MEMORY OF THE DEAD still looks very good. Considering the inventive visuals in the film, this is a good thing, and though I would prefer a nice HD copy of the film, I'm just happy that it has some sort of official US release.

Audio Quality (4/5)

MEMORY OF THE DEAD isn't going to shake your house apart. Still, the 5.1 AC-3 encoded audio track here does what it needs to. It creates an unsettling atmosphere and really brings the film to life, displaying its wonderful score nicely.

Extra Features

There are no extras on the disc.

Final Thoughts

Overall, though the disc is barebones, MEMORY OF THE DEAD is still a recommended addition to your DVD library. Would I prefer a Blu-ray? Of course... But Artsploitation still gives us a quality transfer of the film that looks good when upscaled on your Blu-ray player. The audio track might not have a lot of punch, but it does the job, and it is certainly sufficient. If you're a fan of the other titles in the company's catalog (as I am), then this purchase is a no-brainer. For those that are wary, at the very least, the disc is worth a rental.


DVD Score


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