Wednesday 20 November 2013

In Memorium (US 2005: Dir Amanda Gusack)

Now that the 'Found Footage' genre has pretty much disappeared up its own aperture, one almost looks back fondly to the days before FF became shorthand for tiresome people running around an empty building screaming their heads off, and when some of the early exemplars - The Blair Witch Project (1999), the rich-kid-trying-not-to-be a-moneybags Cloverfield (2008) and the first couple of Paranormal Activity outings - showed true innovation. One addition to the canon that deserves to be included in the 'pioneers' list is In Memorium, a film hampered by such a limited distribution that very few people have seen it. Which is a great shame as it's a terrific movie.

In Memorium focuses on Dennis and Lily, a likeable couple who have rented a house in Los Angeles. Dennis has been diagnosed with an inoperable cancer and has, in a slightly far fetched plot device, decided to rig up the house with security cameras and microphones to record his imminent decline for possible future use as a documentary. Once set up, the rather mundane existence of the couple begins to be underscored by glimpses of shapes caught on camera, and unidentifable sounds on the audio. Dennis and Lily become increasingly convinced that they are not alone in their new home, and that the presence which has joined them may be destructive and malevolent.

There are very few other characters in the film apart from Dennis's slacker brother Frank and a woman who rents the house to the couple, which focuses things tightly over In Memorium's brief 70 minutes. The claustrophobic surroundings (actually filmed in the Director's own house) are emphasised by the static underlit look of the film, most of the shots being generated from the closed circuit cameras.  Although I felt Lily's rather passive acceptance of her boyfriend's condition a little bewildering, the partnership between the two leads is otherwise convincing and their increasing fear very persuasive.

What makes In Memorium stand out is that, firstly, both the explanation for the visitation and the haunting itself are genuinely scary, something which is very rare in the FF movement. The tension towards the end puts the film up there with some of the great haunted house films, and makes you realise just how powerful this type of movie can be. Seondly, the film never loses sight of the essential plight of Dennis's illness which, when it becomes more pronounced, only deepens the mood.

Amanda Gusack's first full length film as a Director really is an overlooked gem. Made a couple of years before (and clearly influencing) the much more successful Paranormal Activity (2007) and perhaps taking its inspiration from the CCTV nightmare of My Little Eye (2002) In Memorium still packs a punch despite the FF saturation which has now all but extinguished the dramatic potential of this type of film making.

There's a Facebook page for the film here which is worth liking - maybe people power can trigger a DVD release of the movie.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent review (I hope) of a film I am now in the process of, er, acquiring. Such a shame the 'genre' became bloated and spoiled with so many truly awful entries. Even sadder is the fact that because we're now so inured to found footage films, there's no opportunity to develop 'they really did die' type urban myths such as those that surround Cannibal Holocaust. Or perhaps I'm too old and mistrusting to fall for it anyway?