Welcome to Cult Corner where we dive through the bargain bins to determine if a movie is trash or treasure. Today’s pick: Bennett Hoshua Davlin’s Memory.
Memory follows Taylor Briggs, an alzheimer’s researcher that comes into contact with a strange substance and begins to suffer from hallucinations and odd dreams. He believes these to be memories unlocking, though given some of the details contained within, that’s impossible. The further he looks into what these mean, the more he discovers that he might be seeing new evidence towards decades-old murders, and the killer may still be out there.
The cast here is adequate. Billy Zane stars as Taylor Briggs, and he’s good enough in the lead role, but nothing outstanding. As the main character, Taylor is a bit bland and it’s often difficult to understand why he’s doing what he’s doing. He makes some serious leaps in logic, and while he ultimately ends up being correct he just gets to those conclusions a bit too early on for it to believable. In fact, Terry Chen and Tricia Helfer’s characters point most of these issues out and ask a lot of the questions to him that I, as an audience member, had. It feels like they were trying to do something like Fright Night, where the main character knows what’s up and nobody believes them, but fell a bit short. Dennis Hopper also plays a small role in the film, and he’s good but doesn’t get a ton of screen time.
When it comes to the dream sequences and hallucinations, I couldn’t help but compare this to last week’s Cult Corner pick, Satanic. In that review I specifically pointed out that the nightmare segments got repetitive, didn’t really offer any new information, and actively misled us rather than giving real hints towards the ending. Thankfully, a lot of those issues aren’t present in Memory. From a narrative perspective, they are done well. Each one is totally different and shows us something new, while offering a trail of breadcrumbs to follow towards the inevitable twist. From the second that Taylor’s bathroom flooded and he woke up in the middle of a lake with a masked killer staring at him from the shore I wanted to see where it was going.
The plot, pacing, and story of this movie are all actually done pretty well. Despite some logical leaps and really terrible pseudo-science that gets in the way later on when they try to explain the source of the nightmares, the core mystery is fairly engaging. There’s enough going on that I was invested in finding out the truth. What really lets this movie down, however, is the execution and direction. The lighting and camerawork just scream made-for-television and with the absolutely terrible score, the whole thing kind of feels like an episode of some daytime soap opera. Bennett Davlin both wrote and directed the film as well as wrote the novel on which it is based, and I can’t help but think that he should have passed off the film version to more capable hands. With better direction this really could have been pretty good.
However, there’s still the ending and the killer to talk about. I’m not going to give away any real plot spoilers because that’s not how I roll, but I will tell you that the climax has Billy Zane discovering and entering this killer’s lair…and it’s like an entirely different movie. Every time this masked assailant shows up during the film he feels a bit out of place, like he just walked onto the set of Dawson’s Creek from an 80’s slasher movie, but the final act has us entering his world. He’s got a legitimately creepy, albeit totally cliche appearance, and his lair is really visually stunning. The set designers really went to town and this section is even shot and lit way more interestingly than the rest of the film. There are even minor hints of giallo filmmaking here. For how schmaltzy and cheesy the rest of the movie comes off, ending it on this note was a real highlight.
At the end of the day, Memory is a frustrating movie. There are aspects of it that show a lot of potential, and the ending is legitimately really cool, but it has an overall air of cheese to it and feels utterly cheap. With a really strong cast and a much better director this story could have served as the groundwork for a much better film. It’s just a shame that it was wasted in this less than spectacular final product.
Here at Cult Corner we cover the weird and obscure. Given the low budget that these movies often have we feel the need to recognize that entertainment value and quality aren’t always synonymous. That’s why we have opted for the “trash or treasure” approach in lieu of a typical rating system. After all, Troll 2 is incredibly entertaining but it’s no 8 out of 10.