Horror, Supernatural, Thriller

Amnesiac (2013)

Comments Off on Amnesiac (2013) 21 October 2013


Studio: Hunger Cult Films

Distributed By: Midnight Releasing

DVD Release: November 5, 2013

Video on Demand Release: September 15, 2013

Director: Martin Rutley

Rating: Not Rated

Reviewed By James M. Dubs

I’ll watch anything so you don’t have to…including Amnesiac.

Film Rating: ★½☆☆☆

Amnesiac follows two parallel stories – Kate, a disturbed mother grieving the loss of her baby son and Alex, an equally disturbed and malevolent spirit, seemingly trapped in the afterlife to relive the horrors of his past. For Kate, she has secluded herself in the nursery, has become obsessed with the occult, covering the walls with newspaper clippings, photographs, and marking the walls with strange symbols and phrases. The room is filthy and trash litters the room and crib. Meanwhile, Alex wanders an English country side, spewing depressing poetry, and digs a shallow grave for poorly wrapped and dripping human body parts.

The two eventually become linked when Kate seeks to make contact with her son’s spirit through the use of a Ouija board. On the other side is Alex, whom identifies himself as the “Wyke Wreake”, is more than willing to offer some glimpses into his madness, and satiate his murderous impulses at the expense of Kate, her sister Bec, and their friend Thom.

blood on her hands

It sounds like an intriguing story, but it is only half of the tale. Midway through the movie, the film takes an elbow turn, seems to abandon the Kate arc, and instead delves deeper into the “sane” (or should we say “slightly more sane”) world of Alex; presumably before he became the killer introduced at the beginning of the feature. Or is this just more possible manifestations of Alex’s warped mind? Either way, in the Alex arc, he is visited by his ex-wife and explains to her that forces are telling him to kill their son. He speaks of the Wyke Wreake and its influential evil.

Of the two stories, the Alex arc is the dominantly more compelling and intriguing of the two. Although the Kate story helps lend some details to lead into the Alex tale, ultimately Amnesiac feels like two student thesis films stitched and edited together with the singular idea of the Wyke Wreake (which is also the alternate title of the film). The two stories never completely gel into a cohesive whole and the film tries to introduce ideas, concepts, and themes that feel too big and complex for the filmmakers to handle.

To the film’s credit there are a lot of things done well. To start the acting is pretty solid and all of the actors make the most out of their limited script and character motivations.

For its modest budget, the filmmakers make good use of existing exteriors to set a depressed mood and bleak atmosphere. The interior set, which is redressed at least three times to represent different rooms, is effective enough if not otherwise a bit clichéd. The Saw franchise or David Fincher’s Seven comes to mind as possible inspirations that the film can’t quite succeed in emulating.

There’s also a cool little animated piece that, later in the film, helps explain the meaning of Wyke Wreake.

For everything that Amnesiac does well, there are many more missteps along the way. As an example, take the above image featuring Kate looking at a doll wrapped in a bloody plastic bag. In this sequence the doll somehow magically appears and drops from the ceiling. The drop happens suddenly, but not with the “gotcha” kind of effect that would make an audience jump. It comes across as awkward and strange causing more questions than answers. Where did the doll come from? How come these people didn’t notice the doll before? If it simply appeared supernaturally, how? Furthermore, I question some of the directing decisions during this exchange. A close-up shot of the doll reveals it has pubic hair. Why give the doll pubic hair? Is this to make it more scary? Weird? It just comes off as comical and amateur and helps lend to the student filmmaking vibe.

In another sequence, the set is redressed to have blood spattered walls. Charred/burned baby dolls are nailed to the walls. Alex is crouching in the room wearing nothing but a hospital gown and some weird oral apparatus (pictured below). Did this take place in the “real” world or is this just a physical interpretation of Alex’s madness? What is that weird thing in his mouth and why is he wearing it? The filmmakers never make it clear and again we’re left with the impression that the film is trying to be “deep” or “cerebral” when really it comes across as clichéd, overly complicated, and unfocused.

I do commend the filmmakers on the effort. They experiment with ideas of what is real and what isn’t real. Is Alex influencing Kate? Is the Wyke Wreake possessing Alex? Or is Kate the influence on Alex? Is any of it really happening? Unfortunately, the answers are harder to come by than the questions and without being able to discern what is real and what is not, viewers will be left confused and disappointed.

Video & Audio Rating: ★★½☆☆

I see you

Midnight Releasing sent us a screener DVD which is labeled “Not final product.”

Despite my critical opinion of the story and directing, one of the areas that succeeds is the video presentation. Atmosphere and mood are shot with a skilled hand. Lighting is moody and fits with the overall aesthetic of the feature. There’s nothing particularly memorable about the DVD presentation but it gets the job done, especially for standard definition DVD.

Audio is a simple stereo track, and is mostly decent. My only criticism is regarding the final mix of “demon voices” during a couple of “possession” scenes. During these brief exchanges, the dialogue is a bit unintelligible. Otherwise, dialogue is clear and the musical score is a good compliment to the film overall.

Extras Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Screener DVD included none.

Overall Rating: ★½☆☆☆

the end

Of the Midnight Releasing catalog, Amnesiac is one of the better selections. Have I seen worse? Yes. Much worse – see my recent Demon review here. At least the makers of this movie put together a competent 90 minutes.

Even though it is a marked improvement, Amnesiac still can’t shake the film school thesis vibe due to underwhelming direction against concepts to big for this director’s britches. It would be curious to see the script handled by someone like David Lynch who has made a living making movies heavy in mystery and absent of answers. The filmmakers give it their best shot, however, decent acting, and cinematography can’t make up for the clichéd art direction and confusing story arc (Why is there a baby’s head on that gas mask?). If you are a fan of David Lynch’s Inland Empire, then Amnesiac might be the kind of “mind bend” you’re looking for. Otherwise, viewers looking for a straight forward narrative with a beginning, middle, and end should probably steer clear of Amnesiac.

About the author: James Dubs is a father and husband who loves his family first and movies a close second. He believes every movie is worth watching once and, as a film fan and critic, believes that even the worst movies offer something in return. His mission is to watch anything and report without pretension. Follow James Dubs on Twitter and send him suggestions on movies you would like reviewed – popular, obscure, independent, etc. He’ll watch anything for you.


- who has written 67 posts on UnRated Film Review Magazine | Movie Reviews, Interviews.

James Dubs is a father and husband who loves his family first and movies a close second. He believes every movie is worth watching once and, as a film fan and critic, believes that even the worst movies offer something in return. His mission is to watch anything and report without pretension. Follow James Dubs on Twitter and send him suggestions on movies you would like reviewed - popular, obscure, independent, etc. He'll watch anything for you.

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