Fantastic Fest 2012 Review: LA MEMORIA DEL MUERTO Is A Delirious Genre Mashup

Contributor; Chicago, Illinois
Fantastic Fest 2012 Review: LA MEMORIA DEL MUERTO Is A Delirious Genre Mashup
Influenced by everything from Dario Argento's Suspiria (1977) to Sam Raimi's Evil Dead II (1987) this bit of occult horror from director Valentín Javier Diment pops like a Tex Avery cartoon off the screen, offering solid laughs and genuinely shocking gross out gore. But it's also helped out by a good screenplay offering weirder than weird plot twists taking viewers who wish to go deeper beyond those surface reactions into some genuine poignancy. What emerges is a disturbing, somewhat disjointed but ultra fun genre flick with a bit of an edge.

While mourning the unexpected death of her beloved husband Jorge (Gabriel Goity), Alicia (Lola Berthet) calls his closest friends and companions together. Upon everyone's arrival in the deserted country home Alicia reads a moving letter in which Jorge thanks everyone for what they have meant to him. But the letter also reveals Jorge's intention to return from the grave via a ritual in which everyone in the home will be visited by ghosts from their past. Told they will be safe as long as they remain inside the house the group abides by Jorge and Alicia's wishes hoping to see their friend again. What they cannot know is they are about to be sacrificed as part of an arcane magick ceremony designed to betray each of them.  

There are many things that carry La Memoria Del Muerto out past the white noise. For one thing the film starts out on a surprisingly effective and serious note. By the time Jorge has passed away and everyone has come to his house to hear the reading of the letter the characters have been introduced, relationships established and considerable empathy generated for all concerned. Had the film continued as a simple drama it could have worked remarkably well.

But when one of the guests sees the ghost of a long dead relative outside and rushes to meet them the style of the film abruptly shifts and we are treated to a virtual carnivale of practical effects, swooping cameras and over the top performances. It all dances on the razor's edge threatening at any moment to spill over into mere kitsch but the screenplay, which keeps the characters confronted with a variety of personal sins and anxieties, gives a solid framework to an equally solid cast in making important moments seem heartfelt. If anything the humor makes some of the films darker observations easier to digest. The film ends on a hard twist that it absolutely earns but by then has lost a little of the dramatic power it gained from its setup making the highly energetic project seem a bit of a cinematic curiosity rather than full fledged minor gem. Still La Memoria Del Muerto is well worth seeking out and unlikely to fade from memory any time soon. 
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