By: Abbie Bernstein, Columnist
Memory in some ways is a formulaic psychic thriller, but in other ways, the film’s willingness to be icky and weird takes us to some surprising places – there’s a sense here that this was very much the movie director Bennett Davlin and co-writer Anthony Badalucco, adapting Devlin’s novel, wanted to make.
Dr. Taylor Briggs (Billy Zane), a medical researcher visiting South America, comes in contact with a strange substance in the system of a dying man. Taylor begins to experience some really bizarre visions, which tend to leave him on the floor in a state of unconsciousness. At first Taylor believes he’s hallucinating, but (as in many movies of this type) comes to the view that he’s actually experiencing somebody else’s memories. The alarming thing is that “somebody else” is a child killer who seems likely to strike again.
The story is actually very well-structured – so much so that viewers may be able to guess some significant plot twists ahead of time, but nobody can accuse Devlin and Co. of sloppy storytelling. The child-murder angle puts this well out of the realm most studio thrillers would touch with a barge pole, meaning that the filmmakers are free to riff and have little character moments and generally play with scenes so that the clues are scattered amongst genuine character moments. They also get good mileage out of some creepy setpieces, including dolls and doll masks, that at first seem just macabre décor but wind up being less arbitrary that we first might suppose.
Zane is personable in a well-proportioned performance as a man who starts out being purposefully detached and gradually becomes more and more concerned with others. Tricia Helfer (of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA fame) demonstrates ably that she can play a romantic lead as his artist girlfriend, Dennis Hopper exudes restrained urbanity as Taylor’s mentor and Ann-Margret puts maternal warmth into her depiction of a family friend.
MEMORY will remind you of films you’ve seen before, but it has its own identity and feels like the entertaining little genre film it’s meant to be.