Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Memory of the Dead (Artsploitation DVD) - A New Euro Horror Classic... from Argentina?

Artsploitation Films better be on your radar when it comes to shocking horror and unsettling fiction. These are movies that can be challenging at best and at their most depraved can make you worry about your unborn children though not necessarily always horror. We’ve tackled Wither, Hidden in the Woods and one of my favorites from 2013, Toad Road thus far, but their catalog is growing ever larger and this reviewer has only just scratched the surface. That brings us to our first Artsploitation watch of 2014, Memory of the Dead which bills itself as an Argento inspired mood movie, but comes off as a movie that could easily fit in with the likes of Evil Dead or Wither for the lonesome house in the middle of nowhere vibe. We’re talking about some truly paranormal happenings with a bit of the ghosties, a touch of strange, monstrous Del Toro esque creation and a strong cast to sell the effects, makeup and lighting to even the most apple pie of horror fans.


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. 


While there are moments that are somewhat slow and overly explanatory, Memory of the Dead feels like a strange look inside the mind of a supernatural being that wants to knock the dead right back into the land of the living. That doesn’t mean you’re looking at another Evil Dead knock off or cabin in the woods flick. No women were harmed by rapist trees in the making of this production. The reason that this film from Argentina works so well is the performances that sell the effects. While the majority of the makeup work is gory good fun there are moments that feel plastic or perhaps a touch phony. It is at these moments that the viewer must rely on some good casting and narrative to get to the next big set piece (relatively speaking). As with the rest of my experience with Artsploitation movies I’m unfamiliar with the cast of Memory of the Dead, but I’d be quick to enjoy a movie starring any one of them again. These are breakout horrific performances by lessor known actors. It’s part of the reason you can just the AF name.

Yes there are distinctly Italian lighting choices that could mirror some early Argento, but I might say Mario Bava over Argento. There are set ups in this movie that resemble Black Sabbath in color and shot choice. I suppose comparing the filming style of newcomer Valentin Javier Diment (that’s a great fucking name) is a compliment. Memory of the Dead is surreal but watchable. We’re not talking about a Jodorowsky pic or even a David Lynch movie. It’s surreal-lite with a focus on the storytelling.

Note: 2.35:1 Spanish with English subtitles and shot in 2011 (picked up by Artsploitation for this 2013 release).

The disc isn’t an extra filled goody bag. That simply means you’ll have to let the movie guide your purchasing hand. For folks who are tired of some of the modern tropes piling up in American horror or even on the indie circuit, Memory of the Dead plays on the ghost story in a very physical way with an emphasis on visual pummeling you but in a creative fashion. Think less Hostel and more Pan’s Labyrinth.

You can order Memory of the Dead (no relationship to the Romero “of the Dead” series) now. Make sure to enjoy all of the Artsploitation Films catalog. Memory of the Dead release February 25th.

-Doc Terror

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