Memory

Movie review by
Cynthia Fuchs, Common Sense Media
Memory Movie Poster Image
Convoluted fright flick less scary than confusing.
  • R
  • 2007
  • 98 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Serial killer/child kidnapper remains at large for decades; so-called good-guy doctors break into homes, exchange files illegally, and lie to their loved ones.

Violence

Scary scenes show young girls being kidnapped (one screams as her father is knocked out and can't help her); two girls perish in an elementary school fire (the killer traps them there; viewers hear screaming and see flames); a girl uses her bracelet to cut the killer, drawing blood; repeated chase scenes are hectic and dark; body suffused with red ochre powder looks grotesque; killer makes porcelain masks of girls before killing them; final chase and fight in basement/catacombs is rendered with hectic camerawork and editing; killer screams a lot.

Sex

Killer dresses up kidnapped little girls in white dresses (no sexual activity implied, but significant gender definition by way of "preserving innocence"); Deep tells Taylor he "needs to get laid" Stephanie appears in her bra during a strip poker game, then slips it off to kiss Taylor; they next appear naked in bed (under covers) talking about their pasts.

Language

Several uses of "f--k," plus other language -- "s--t," "hell," "damn."

Consumerism

A Burberry trenchcoat plays a key role in the main character's nightmares.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A hallucinogenic drug is at the center of the mystery; killer stabs victims with a needle filled with a knockout drug; wine, liquor, and beer drinking; one cigar smoked.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this confusing horror movie depends on dark shadows, spastic camerawork, and not-spooky-enough music to make up for lack of sense and tension. The main character's nightmares/memories occur erratically and confuse -- rather than clarify -- matters. Sexual activity is brief, starting with drinks and strip poker and ending with a couple in bed under the covers. The serial killer doesn't appear to commit sexual acts on the kidnapped girls, but he does frighten them and make plaster casts of their faces before killing them off screen. A couple of kidnappings are visible and creepy, with girls screaming in fear. There is some social drinking, and the effects of hallucinatory drug (delirium, anxiety) are shown. Language includes several uses of "f--k."

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What's the story?

Dr. Taylor Briggs (Billy Zane), a researcher who specializes in Alzheimer's syndrome (his mother is afflicted), is exposed to an ancient Amazonian Indian powder that purportedly allows users to see the past through the eyes of their ancestors. Taylor's best friend/fellow researcher Deep (Terry Chen) calls it "mystic mumbo jumbo" -- but Taylor is soon having "memories" that seem structured like nightmares, in which he runs through mud and woods after a figure dressed in a porcelain mask and a black Burberry trench coat. Conveniently, the figure leaves a newspaper for Taylor to find, dated March 21, 1971 -- a year before he was born. As the memories become more elaborate, Taylor learns that the subject was also a kidnapper and killer of little girls. He also discovers a local artist, Stephanie (Battlestar Galactica's Tricia Helfer), who has painted a scary figure in the woods who looks just like his nightmare/memory. They're soon sleeping together and working to solve the mystery.

Is it any good?

Memory's slide into total nonsense (made concrete in an intricate, multi-room killer's lair decorated with decades' worth of collected trophies and throbbing green light) is set up early. The fact that the film raises worthy questions about experience, memory, and identity is too bad. They're pretty much lost inside a forgettable plot.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about different types of horror movies. What category does this one fall into? Which movies is it similar to (and different from)? Why are so many movies made about serial killers? Families can also talk about the connections between memory and identity. What does Taylor mean when he says that "Our lives are nothing more than our memories"? The director says the plot is based on science: Does it seem possible that people might transmit memories through DNA to our children?

Movie details

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