Dir: Gabriel Musco
Star: Sofia Langoni, Marta Quarleri, Silvina Diez, Lucas Martínez Foresi
a.k.a. Recuerdos del mal
Horror is, by and large, a young person’s genre: Jason Vorhees goes after teenagers, not retirees. Which is odd when you think about it, considering the older you are, the closer you inevitably are to death. I know that I certainly contemplate my own mortality considerably more than I did in my twenties. Yet horror films that use old age as an element are few and far between. This one comes to us from the Argentinian director of Dark Fears, and has some elements in common with it. Both are concerned with somebody who is sequestered out of contact with society – for reasons which only become clear later on.
In this case, the incarceree is Amalia (Quarleri), an old woman now confined to her house, and exhibiting signs of mental confusion. She doesn’t appear to recognize her own daughter (Diez), who has brought in student Laura (Langoni) to act as a caregiver. But the more time Laura spends around Amalia, the more she begins to suspect that the daughter may not have her mother’s best interests at heart. And what are in the “memory” pills Laura is under strict instructions to give Amalia, exactly every six hours? Laura decides she’s going to rescue the old lady from the apparently abusive situation. Except, since she’s not aware of the entire situation, this might imperil, not just herself, but everyone else in the house.
Musco said, “The fear that overwhelms me when thinking about my future old age mobilized me to write and make this film… Sometimes physical death is not as painful as slowly ceasing to be yourself. Disease and abandonment by your loved ones transform the last years of life, to a slow, solitary wait.” This certainly informs the first part of the film in particular, where you feel like you’re watching a woman in the final stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s. It rang all the more painful personally, having seen my late mother-in-law decline in a similar fashion. Enormous credit to Quarleri for her performance. Or perhaps performanceS, since she is not just the feeble geriatric she initially seems. She also delivers a copious amount of creepiness, and Amalia is very light on her feet too…
It’s a little less successful when trying to move beyond that, with a couple of jump scares and other less subtle moments which aren’t executed very well. These undo a lot of the good set-up work, and in general the film is better at lighting the fuse than blowing things up, if you get my point. The script manages a nice, slow drip of information, such as Amalia being inexplicably aware of the situation between Laura and her father. The final payoff is fairly “generic horror”, and feels like it could have come from a different movie. Certainly, any philosophical thoughts are more or less out the window, in favour of full-on hagsploitation. I’ll let you know if that’s a good thing or not, once I’ve come to a decision.