• In Memory Of (Wicked Pixel) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Wicked Pixel
    Released on: June 26th, 2018.
    Director: Eric Stanze
    Cast: Jackie Kelly, Jason Christ, Adam Ahlbrandt, Haley Madison, Emilie Haack, D.J. Vivona
    Year: 2018
    Purchase From Amazon

    In Memory Of – Movie Review:

    Eriz Stanze’s latest feature starts with an intense pre-credits sequence wherein we meet a pretty blonde woman whose internal narration gives us some background on her situation. She suffers from a disease, the same disease that killed her mother. Her father abandoned her and she was raised by her aunt. She had an otherwise happy childhood but that was all in the past. In the present, she had recently arranged to meet some people at a ‘secret location’ but clearly something went wrong as she wakes up in an old abandoned factory surrounded by dead bodies and covered in blood.

    A man attacks her but she stabs him in the eye with a pair of scissors and escapes only to get grabbed by another man, Simon (Jason Christ), who tells the woman we learn is named Amber (Jackie Kelly) that she has to get out of here. There’s a price to pay, she is valuable to ‘them’ and they want to profit from her. He tells her to go to a motel room where she’ll retrieve a pocket watch.

    We flash back and learn that her boyfriend Darren (Adam Ahlbrandt) and a girl named Jennifer (Haley Madison) used her. Darren put her up to this, they needed the money after all, and prior to that he had pressured her into prostituting herself. As she remembers this at the hotel room she flips out and has a breakdown. We see her and Simon tied up in the old factory where she woke up covered in blood.

    From there, we cut to a scene where a man named Barry (D.J. Vivona) shows up at Amber’s apartment having expected to get to fuck her in exchange for some money. Amber doesn’t seem to know what’s going on, who he is or why he’s there and eventually he leaves. Darren shows up and they talk. He admits to screwing up, but it was only one time – and then we see another flashback and find out that he was screwing Jennifer. She tells Darren she’s scared, doesn’t want to go do this alone, and from here, as the plot plays out, we learn that the experimental drug Amber agreed to take to treat her disease has had some serious side effects and wreaked havoc with her memory.

    She needs to find the man that created the drug and used it on her to try and set things right, but of course, that’s going to be much easier said than done. Before it’s all over we’ll see her pushed through a nightmarish asylum by a woman named Haley (Emily Haack) who may or may not have ties to her convoluted past, we learn why she quit her job and about her obvious self-esteem issues, and learn what really happened to her in that old factory. She is the one, Simon tells her, who puts the puzzle together.

    Stanze, who has a small cameo in the film as an Arizona hotel clerk, also shot the film himself and it is here that the movie really impresses. The visuals for this picture are so strong and there’s so much detail and care put into the compositions that it is easy to get lost in the imagery. The fact that Amber has to travel across various states gives the movie the opportunity to show off a wide variety of locations – and my God, the location work in this film is flat out amazing. From the opening scene in the factory to the deserts of the American South West, these locales have all clearly been chosen very carefully. Little details like a neon sign shot from below so that we can see the lightning flash behind it, or the way that the camera puts a handful of crumpled bill in front of Amber’s face as she’s being fucked by Barry, manage to not just heighten tension but keep us visually engaged in the proceedings even when we don’t fully understand what’s going on in the film.

    As to the acting in the picture, it’s of considerably better quality than your average indie/low budget movie even if occasionally it might be a bit less than perfect. Still, the good most certainly outweighs the bad here. It takes a little while to get used to Jackie Kelly’s performance but by the time the movie is over, she’ll have won you over. She’s strong in communicating through body language and through her facial expressions. Her eyes in particular are big and expressive. Kelly’s work here is quite bold, she’s frequently completely naked and put through some pretty grueling scenes but she works really well in the lead. Supporting work from Wicked Pixel regular players Jason Christ, Emily Haack and D.J. Vivona is also good. Of the three, Christ gets more screen time than the other two and he shows good range here – he plays the mysterious type well but also has an interesting scene wherein he plays the host of a TV talk show where he’s surprisingly convincing. Haack and Vivona’s characters are just as troubled as Amber in their own ways, both show strong range and are quite believable in their roles. It’s also interesting to see Crossbearer/The Cemetery director Adam Ahlbrandt play the sleazy boyfriend and to see Haley Madison (who has popped up in quite a few indie horror pictures over the last few years, having worked with Henrique Couto and Dustin Mills) show up in the film. Both of them are quite good here.

    The movie also features impressive sound design. While the audio is only a two channel mix rather than a proper surround sound track, it’s surprisingly enveloping and detailed. The score, from Gus Stevenson (who scored Stanze’s last picture Rat Line) and former Evanescence drummer Rocky Gray, is an unusual mix of ambient sounds, industrial soundscapes and occasionally more traditional music that helps accent tension and drama very effectively.

    In Memory Of is much like Stazne’s other films in that the picture deals in some pretty strong content (lots of nudity here, both male and female), but a key difference here is that it doesn’t feel overdone or put into the picture simply to shock. Rather, the sex and the violence in the film add to the tension and seem in keeping with Amber’s breakdown and fragile mental state – as we see all of this on the screen, we’re left wondering what’s real and what’s imagined.

    Memory Of, Stanze’s most mature and ambitious feature to date, is a slow film. It’s not dull, but it moves at a very deliberate pace and unfolds in very small doses rather than in large chunks. It’s not a film that you can only half pay attention to, but rather one that requires an investment on the part of the viewer. Those who need things spelled out to the letter might not enjoy what Stanze and company have gone for here, but if you appreciate challenging cinema and a slow burn, odds are pretty good you’ll find the movie quite captivating.

    In Memory Of – Blu-ray Review:

    In Memory Of is presented on a 50GB region free Blu-ray disc with the feature given over 36GBs of real estate on that disc. The AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer is impressive. The 1.78.1 transfer, which was shot digitally, shows no print damage (obviously) and boasts very good color reproduction and detail. There are no noticeable compression problems to note and there’s solid depth here as well. The film’s excellent cinematography is well represented here, the movie looks really good.

    Audio chores are handled by a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track. While it would have been ideal to get a lossless option here, this is still a very solid mix. There are no alternate language or subtitle options offered. Dialogue is clean and clear, balance is fine and the film’s unique and unusual score is nicely reproduced.

    Extras on the first disc start out with a commentary track by director Eric Stanze, who opens by noting what he did on the film – not just directing but shooting, editing and co-writing the picture. From there, it’s a reasonably scene specific talk that guides us through the movie, covering his intentions from the opening credits to tonal shifts that happen in the film (and why), the admitted influence of filmmakers like Cronenberg and Lynch, why he wanted to do a road trip film, the importance of certain locations and how they were locked for the shoot, the contributions of the cast and crew, how Cross Bearer’s Adam Ahlbrandt wound up in the film, and how one of the locations – the Jade Theater visible in the background of a certain scene – was where they had the premiere of Ice For The Sun so many years ago! He goes on to explain the use of narration, the importance and effectiveness of the original music composed for the film, his own cameo in the film, shooting the sex scene and the trickiness involved in that, the importance of his collaboration with producer Jeremy ‘Busterface’ Wallace and loads more. It’s an interesting track that’s loaded with information.

    A second commentary track by actress Jackie Kelly, actor Jason Christ and Eric Stanze is also included on the disc. Christ takes the lead, talking about how he likes the fact that they featured a lot of their native St. Louis in the film’s opening, how cold it was for Kelly in one of the more challenging sets that they had to shoot on, how some of the locations really affected the outcome of the film and how committed Christ felt Kelly and Stanze were and how important that was to him. Kelly addresses the issues of dementia and how it plays an important part in the film, talks about some of the complexities of the character that she played in the film and what it was like working with some of her co-stars. Christ notes that in some ways this is a sister film to Ice From The Sun, Ahlbrandt’s contributions are covered by Stanze again, how tough it was to get a good night’s sleep during the shoot, how Christ wrote some of the more intense dialogue relayed in one of the film’s sex scenes, and what Kelly wrote, and how they opted to use practical effects. They also point out the café in the film that appeared in Two Lane Blacktop, why certain scenes are cut the way they are and how the story evolved organically. This track is also solid, there’s a tiny bit of repetition here but very, very little and it covers a lot of ground that Stanze’s solo track does not.

    The disc also holds a featurette called Gray Matter that runs just over five-minutes and focuses on the creation of the movie’s unique score. In this piece we hear from Stanze on the two musicians that collaborated on the score for the film, particularly how Rocky Gray wound up working on the picture after getting in touch to use a clip from Scrapbook on a project before In Memory Of even existed. Gus Stevenson, the associate producer and co-creator of the score, also shows up here to talk about working with Gray. They basically gush, but it’s warranted, the score in the film is excellent and they’re both clearly honored that a high profile musician opted to support them on this project.

    Also on the disc are four-minutes of deleted scenes with optional commentary track by director/editor Eric Stanze. The scenes are: The Jennifer Conversation, Leaving Santa Fe and Driving To Moab (Longer Version). Stanze’s commentary gives some context to the scenes and explains why they were cut. When you listen to his explanation for why the material was removed, it’s hard to argue with him, but it’s interesting to see this material.

    A preview trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection round out the supplements on disc one.

    The second disc in the set contains a ninety-three-minute feature length documentary on the making of the film entitled Thought Process. In this ridiculously in-depth piece, directed by Trevor Williams, we get plenty of behind the scenes footage but so too do we get interviews with Stanze, Christ, Kelly, Gus Stevenson, Jim Ousley, Emily Haack, D.J. Vivona, Adam Ahlbrandt, Haley Madison, Trevor Williams and Chaz Minner. As this piece plays out, you really get a sense of the teamwork that was involved in all of this. Stanze, Christ and Kelly get more screen time than anyone else but the vast majority of time that they are on camera they’re talking about what the other contributors brought to the production even more so than their own experiences on the shoot. As the interviews play out we get a host of behind the scenes footage showing off what it was like on set as well as pertinent clips from the film. It’s an interesting, thorough and well put together examination of the production.

    In Memory Of – The Final Word:

    In Memory Of, Stanze’s most mature and ambitious feature to date, is a slow film. It’s not dull, but it moves at a very deliberate pace and unfolds in very small doses rather than in large chunks. It’s not a film that you can only half pay attention to, but rather one that requires an investment on the part of the viewer. Those who need things spelled out to the letter might not enjoy what Stanze and company have gone for here, but if you appreciate challenging cinema and a slow burn, odds are pretty good you’ll find the movie quite captivating. The two-disc Blu-ray release from Wicked Pixel is excellent, presenting the film in a wonderful presentation and stacked to the roof with interesting extra features.

    Click on the images below for full sized In Memory Of Blu-ray screen caps!