A memorial service is held for a man who passed away in his sleep. He had written a note for his wife where he said he wanted her to bring together the people close to him for the memorial service. When the widow and several others attending are deep in their sadness they soon find themselves surrounded by the dead.
We're certainly no experts on films from Argentina, but we've had a few come through in our years reviewing. Most notably would probably be Adrián García Bogliano, a director who has been producing both good and awful movies. A handful of films from Argentina still means that it has been fairly absent, so I was looking forward to checking out a new one from Argentina: "Memory of the Dead". As per usual nowadays I went in as blind as possible at this point and came out, to be honest, a bit skeptical about what I had just seen.
A man who seemed to be expecting his own death left a note to his wife, stating a few things he wanted her to do. He wants her to bring together people that were close to him for a memorial service. When she does this, we soon discover that there was more to this note than that: he wants her help to be brought back to life. To do that, lives have to be taken first. And soon the dead begin to haunt the place. Not just the dead, but each person is visited by someone they loved and lost.
Clearly taking a few notes from different sources, going between "Evil Dead 2", Agatha Christie and perhaps even some Luis Buñuel (with how it forces a group together in this absurd way). It sounds fancier than it is, of course. We're not dealing with the cream of the crop of art, but rather something closer to "Evil Dead 2" - it's heavy on the comedy, the absurdity, the goo and the over-stylized-with-use-of-colored-lighting perhaps most associated with Dario Argento. Some movies can mix these things flawlessly, such as the above mentioned Raimi movie, but it's not an easy thing to do.
"Memory of the Dead" doesn't specifically fail, but to me it comes off a bit too much as being a tribute and style-before-substance. The jokes never make me laugh out loud, the horror never scares, the style doesn't woo me and the effects pend between great and meh. I can enjoy an effect-focused and fun movie, but it was made slightly harder by the fact that this one used a lot of CGI that felt uneeded. One example would be of when the camera is acting as something that moved through a field and closing up to the house (sound familiar?), and the whole scene was CGI! And when they see something outside of the window, it was usually CGI too. There are some stuff that work that are CGI, and there are some practical effects that help too. To me, though, a film like this could've survived many of the flaws if the effects were carefully crafted through-out - it could've been a riot.
There are some solid ideas in here, such as the dead of their own personal loved ones coming back to life to haunt them, that I thought made it worth a watch. It's not something I will remember as being bad, but one that I would be careful before I recommend it. Some people would love this, some wouldn't at all. I'm glad I could at least find myself in the middle of that. I want to give credit to them for several creative scenes, and some scenes are quite well crafted in their "style-over-substance". Ultimately, "Memory of the Dead" could have achieved a cult status in my eyes had it just controlled its many sub/genres better, and if the effects were all practical. It's not a bad movie, but it could have been a lot more.