I'm certainly no expert on the fine nation of Argentina, but they look poised to become the next breakout country at the horror film festivals. In the past year they've offered Cold Sweat, Penumbra, and a few other titles I haven't tracked down yet, and their latest -- La Memoria del Muerto (aka Memory of the Dead) -- is an absolute gore-splattered hoot of an import. Clearly inspired by Evil Dead 2, Ten Little Indians, and probably dozens of other stories in which people get killed in disturbing ways, Memory of the Dead is not the first horror feature from Valentin Javier Diment, but it has the raucous enthusiasm of a young Sam Raimi or Peter Jackson.
The story is admirably simple: a group of duplicitous friends and relatives have gathered to pay their respects to the recently-deceased businessman. The widow is grieving, the friends are weeping, the characters are introduced in a quick and efficient manner ... the clock strikes midnight ... and all holy hell breaks loose. There's so much carnage and craziness afoot in Memory of the Dead that the flick almost starts to feel like an anthology piece. Each of the "mourners" come under attack from something truly repulsive (kudos to the production designers, costume creators, and gore-slingers!), and then the plot clicks into place: seems that the widow has hatched an evil scheme to bring her husband back from the dead, and she needs fresh corpses to do it.
Virtually dismissive of a traditional narrative structure, Memory of the Dead kicks off with a truly disturbing nightmare and a sudden jolt, and once we get past the opening credits and a few scenes of quick but important character-building, the flick simply leaps into an abyss of gruesome and graphic horror that, and this is important, always comes across with a cock-eyed grin or a stylized wink. Much of Memory of the Dead is creepy, gross, and visually impactful, but there's also a Grand Guignol sense of over-theatricality and a dark, simple sense of humor. Mr. Diment is, again, clearly emulating films like Raimi's Evil Dead 2 and Jackson's Dead Alive, but Memory of the Dead is not a simple imitation. Despite numerous parts that feel borrowed from earlier horror films, Diment still gets a relatively unique story wedged into the mayhem, and the flick is so damn energetic and unpredictable, it starts to feel like a very gruesome carnival ride.
An homage to great gore classics and a legitimately fun, fast-paced, ferocious genre flick in its own right, Memory of the Dead is an example of how to respect your heroes while still forging your own ground. From its gooey practical gore to its bizarre CGI backdrops, for its bizarre mixture of dark gristle and weird humor, and thanks a dozen little touches in between, this is easily one of my favorite horror films of the year.