There’s a big difference between making a film that’s inspired by your cinematic forebears and making a film that simply steals ideas, concepts and even images from them wholesale. Argentinian Valentin Javier Diment may claim his fast, cheap and out of control debut Memory of the Dead is in simply in the vein of The Evil Dead, but make no mistake – this is a straight up ripoff pure and simple. And a fairly poor one at that.
Weeks after he husband dies in his sleep, grieving widower Alicia (Lola Berthet) gathers five of his most beloved friends and family together to celebrate the unveiling of a painting dedicated to him…or at least that’s what they think. See, dearly departed Jorge was in life a dedicated practitioner of the dark arts and Alicia has brought them all together to be pawns in her quest to bring him back from the dead. After much endless – and I mean endless – bickering, all hell breaks loose.
Or it should, but the hell breaking loose here is of a distinctly uninteresting variety. Memory makes no bones about being little more than a plasma-soaked, occult-live action cartoon, but even a plasma-soaked, occult-tinged live action cartoon needs to be held to some sort of standards, and what we’ve got is a cheaply thrown together hodgepodge of cast off parts from other, better, supernatural splatter comedies. It’s transparently clear that Diment loves Sam Raimi – maybe a little too much, as Diment often repeats tricks and images verbatim from the likes of The Evil Dead. It’s one thing to be influenced; it’s quite another to pass off theft as influence.
Of course, Memory of the Dead would be pretty bad even without its lack of originality. One tends to be kinder on independent films made with an obvious lack of budget, especially if they’re only promising a cheesy, gory good time. Diment does provide a few entertainingly gnarly gross-out moments, but they aren’t enough to excuse the ugly, flat camerawork; the cramped, action-undercutting visual style; the hateful characters; the lame attempts at dialogue; the way the tone veers drunkenly between overwrought splatter, self-conscious melodrama and syrupy sentimentality; and the odd vein of homophobia that runs straight through it.
Memory of the Dead would like nothing more than to be the next The Evil Dead. But it’s too wildly uneven, too poorly patched together and too slavishly indebted to the Raimi classic to be anything more than another fail on the horror/comedy scrap heap.