By RJ Bayley
I need to establish a few things before I launch into my review of Memory Lane, mainly so I don’t come off as a pissy, uncharitable asshole who never made a thing in his life, never mind a feature film for $300. Honestly, I think you’ll understand and enjoy this review a little more if you indulge me.
It’s not usually the done thing to reference the fact other people have reviewed the film in a review of that same film. However if you take a glance around the internet at other reviews of Memory Lane (and I don’t advise you do, other than in this instance, as Haddonfield Horror is more than capable of fulfilling those needs) you’ll notice some pretty high marks. Far and away the reason for these marks is because the reviewers are quite openly giving the filmmakers of Memory Lane very charitable, lenient scores. They did, after all, make this feature for less than $300 dollars.
I see it as my duty, therefore, to offer a review of not the filmmakers, or the making of the film, nor of the trials and tribulations or tales of persistence that went into making it. I see it as my place to be quite possibly the only voice to review the film based on nothing more than the very film itself. And (I just recently discovered that’s its perfectly acceptable to start a sentence with a conjunction, so up yours grammar nazis) I think the filmmakers would want me to respect the film not to judge it on extraneous and circumstantial elements, but on the merits of the finished film itself. With that out of the way:
This is an awful film. Truly awful. This is a real shame given that the concept for the story is striking, original and excellent. It concerns soldier Nick Boxer (Michael Guy Allen) returning from Afghanistan and becoming enthralled in a passionate and exciting relationship with Kayla M (Meg Barrick), a mysterious girl whom he saves from committing suicide.
As their tumultuous relationship continues Kayla M eventually succeeds in committing suicide, which leads Nick himself into committing suicide. Its suicide Jenga round their gaff. Nick however is resuscitated by his friends Elliot White (Julian Curi) and Ben Haven (Zac Snyder [no, not that one, that one has a K in it]) and sister Hannah (Anna Szyszkiewicz) but assures them he saw Kayla on the otherside, so he’d like to do it again. His friends are bizarrely cool with this, and aid Nick in repeatedly killing and resuscitating himself repeatedly as he’s somehow convinced that Kayla was actually murdered.
Intriguing, yes? Unfortunately however this film was made for three hundred bucks, so it looks awful. The camera is often hideously out of focus and improperly lensed. Obviously this means that actors are often blurry and the camera, which seems to be on some sort of automatic setting, is crazily struggling to pick who to focus on at any one moment and seems to erratically whir between actors most distractingly – see the the car park/alley scene for the worst offender. That or whoever was the focus puller was having an absolute field day on that piece of kit.
The sound work too is especially bad. Clearly using naturalized sound that’s been far from mixed or ADR’d, sounds and especially dialogue drift around scenes as much as the actors do, distorting from fuzzy, to sharp and back again as as elements in the scene shift. I’m not mistaking dynamic sound for shoddy production, this is 100% shoddy production – in the most mundane and static scenes there are radical changes to how characters speak just because they move three feet away from the camera.
While we’re on an audio ragga tip, the music is bombastic and naff in equal measure. The current Arthouse Trashthetique movement is defined by its electronic soundtracks, best exemplified by Rob’s score for the flawless Maniac (2012), and this film follows suit, but in an undeliberate and mawkish fashion. In fact the central motif sounds a bit too close to Do You Hear What I Hear to be taken seriously.
Its not just the technical aspects which let the film down. The acting is uniformly bad to awful. Leads Michael Guy Allen, Meg Barrick and Julian Curi are very bad leads, stumbling over dialogue (which to be fair should have been guided by a better director) and often casting looks that signify nothing. There isn’t a good actor in the film. Some are worse than others, but no one is good. Regardless of whether or not the actor has actually spent time in warzones, Nick is utterly unbelievable as someone who has come back from war emotionally scarred. In fact he seems fairly unemotional about the whole thing.
The plot itself is also desperately shonky and completely wastes the interesting premise. Its a common flaw in a great deal of modern genre flicks these days – the movie is sold on an interesting premise and when we actually buy a ticket to the thing we’re made to wait a good half an hour for that premise to even make itself apparent. Here we have to endure an awful lot of nonsense before the story goes anywhere, and I do mean nonsense. The idea that Nick, or anyone, would buy a house for, then ask to marry someone he doesn’t know the surname of is unadulterated pish and is desperately over romanticised.
It also takes the biscuit that Nick’s friends who have just rescued him from suicide then immediately help in his next suicide plan. Its a character move that would fit children in a very dark fantasy; but in a film with supposedly adult characters? I don’t think so. Surely there’s an easier way to investigate someone’s death before immediately jumping to repeated suicide isn’t there?
Towards the end Memory Lane realises its got a shedload of loose ends and it puts its foot down in an effort to resolve them all. It feels very rushed and very badly judged. The repeated revelations really should have some time to breath instead of immediately having the film rush into the next point.
I won’t try to discuss the final acts of the film because frankly they’re so badly delivered they seem incomprehensible. Given the leaps in logic the film has been slowly increasing however, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the next one involved Martians.
Memory Lane is not worth your time unless you are very, very interested in no-budget filmmaking and want to see just how low you can go while still getting a modest distribution deal. Its cheap looking rubbish that at least should give a great deal of hope to aspiring filmmakers everywhere.
Was this review uncharitable? No, it just wasn’t charity masquerading as a review. I’m sorry if you didn’t like it, but frankly this is the not the review the internet deserved, but the review it needed.