Directed by Valentin Javier Diment
La Memoria del Muerto is a film that owes as much to Sam Raimi as it does the entire haunted house genre. This is a difficult thing to pull off, as many horror comedies tend to start off strong with the comedy before settling into a more serious tone. This doesn’t render them unsuccessful in any way – Shaun of the Dead is guilty of this, but it’s still a great film – it’s just an obvious flaw in a sub-genre that has little to do with the overall enjoyment of the film as a whole. In Valentin Javier Diment’s ghostly blood fest, however, the slow progression into horror is reversed, with the comedy aspect jumping in at seemingly random points to create a downright weird and disjointed supernatural thriller that is more frustrating than anything else.
Following an unsettling nightmare that sees Alicia witness the suicide of her husband Jorge, she awakes in fright to see Jorge having a seizure. The film then skips ahead 49 days where we see Alicia hosting an intimate reception among friends of Jorge to pay their last respects. The motley cast of characters are ripped directly out of a soap opera, their seemingly minor squabbles providing some early laughs before the true nature of their visit is revealed: A ritual designed to resurrect Jorge from the dead. Unfortunately, it also manages to resurrect the ghostly apparitions of the friends’ deceased family members, all of which intend to make this quiet night of remembrance anything but.
The film starts off somber, enjoying a strong supernatural vibe as the guests learn of Jorge’s prediction of his untimely death via a letter read aloud by Alicia around the dinner table. Without warning, the spirit of a young girl appears outside on a swing set, prompting one of the group to rush to her. Naturally, she succumbs to the ghostly presence, prompting Alicia to reveal why they’re really there. She informs them that they’ll be safe if they just stay inside, but this is quickly revealed to be untrue as the spirits of the deceased begin to make themselves known and conjuring up horrifying memories long forgotten.
As a supernatural thriller La Memoria del Muerto succeeds, with Diment recalling haunted house flicks of old as the group struggles to maintain their sanity as they’re faced with the ghosts of their dead loved ones. Not one to focus on one sub-genre, however, Diment opts for a more comedic vibe at inopportune moments (one scene is a redirect homage to Evil Dead 2), masking the tension and suspense with randomly placed gross out gags and dark humor. Unfortunately, there is neither a focus on the horror or the comedy, creating an absurd and uneven tone that fails to coalesce into anything substantial.
It’s not all bad, as Diment’s little flourishes do add something interesting to the film, particularly its gothic-esque score, filled with sinister strings building into exciting crescendos. It adds a unique layer to a confusing film, joining some eerie imagery – one particular scene involves a faceless girl making a face – and thus preventing it from being dismissed outright. In the end, the abrupt and random placement of slapstick comedy and excessive blood, coupled with the relationship drama that pervades throughout, renders the film little more than an absurdist horror soap opera that can never truly find its place.
2 out of 5