March 1, 2013 (U.K.)
Gemma Deerfield as Kate
Leon Florentine as Tom
Edwina Lea as Bec
Kate is with her sister – Bec – and her sister’s boyfriend – Tom, in a room covered with newspapers. With a Ouija board on the table in front of them, Kate anxiously attempts to communicate with the spirit world. Bec argues with Kate about her motivation – convinced she is seeking to contact her dead baby and only participates in the ritual after Kate agrees to seek psychiatric help after the session. After a few attempts the three establish contact with a spirit who reveals himself to be Wyk Wreake – 17th century killer of dozens of children.
While the three move the glass around the board, the action periodically flips to a bearded man who in the first two sequences is in a field reciting depressing poetry; in the next he is digging a hole to bury pieces of a body; in the next he is shoveling intestines into a bathtub… This man turns out to be the ‘spirit’ they have successfully contacted and he refuses to let them leave the room before he has satisfied his own latent bloodlust at their expense. Yet, is he the infamous Wyk Wreake, or another spirit/person possessed by still another malevolent spirit?
The previous paragraph probably seems a little confusing … It may appear that there is some missing information… Or maybe the information is just poorly conveyed … For those who plan on seeing Amnesiac, such thoughts will be frequent and grow tiresome. By the conclusion of the film some may be able to glean a measure of coherence from a few sequences, but no promises.
Amnesiac is a British independent film (with heavy accents) that tries very hard to keep audiences guessing, but ultimately will leave many confused, bored and convinced that the director believed coherency to be beneath him. The story is not so much a story as intersecting metaphors that may or may not be occurring in someone’s mind. The ‘Wyk Wreake’ character at times recites poetry for no particular reason and at other times appears in a ward where he seems to be the victim of horrible experiments. Is this part of his own mental journey? Is he remembering the past? Does the director just like juxtaposing imagery?
On the positive end, the Bec, Kate and Tom characters are ably played by talented actors. Unfortunately, their skill could not overcome a nonsensical script and very poor direction. At times the conversation seems stilted, but also unclear with motivations that appear to shift erratically and goals that remain inarticulate. During one sequence it also seems like Writer/Director Rutley forgot three people are in the room. Bec and Tom converse without regard to Kate for an extended period, while the latter – completely out of her character up until this point – sits silently, waiting for her lines as though someone forgot to tell her she was supposed to exit stage right.
Hence, due to the flawed character interaction from the outset, interest is already waning by the time the ‘Wyk Wreake’ character starts stabbing them (somehow actual knives made it through the spiritual ether). However, any pleasure a horror fan may derive from the violent sequences is muted, because the responses of the other characters are forced and perfunctory. A loved one dies and the tears flow, but moments later its Ouija board time. Poor dialogue direction could have been ameliorated with some scares, gore or decent effects, but none were forthcoming.
However, above the action and visuals, the soundtrack is singularly memorable. No doubt this is the case because it plays on a continuous loop WITHOUT A SINGLE PAUSE for the duration. Its screechy tones (particularly the strings) and spiraling-into-insanity melody often detracts from drama and will probably give those prone to headaches, migraines. Indeed it overwhelms just about every scene – rendering the scripted action more or less an extended and confusing music video… Of course, the poorly developed dialogue reminds the audience that it is not.
Yet, the most pronounced weakness is the story’s execution. Rutley had a GREAT kernel to work with – a new approach to the is-it-all-in-my-mind psychological horror subgenre that adds another and very interesting layer of consideration. Is there some force or entity manipulating two minds psychically connected through supernatural means? Although intriguing, Rutley fails to capitalize on this very worthy new frontier for the genre. Instead he reaches too far in attempting to keep the audience guessing and ultimately leads viewers down so many rabbit holes that the plotline becomes nearly impossible to follow and the story ultimately seems nonsensical. And for good measure, Rutley threw in plenty of metaphorical dreams/experiences meant only to be taken at that level, but they just confuse the issue further – diluting the narrative to the point that renders the ultimate plot, once all the layers are removed, next to impossible to discern. The conclusion manages to salvage a degree of coherence along one of the story’s threads, but viewers will have likely lost interest by the time it FINALLY arrives.
Yet, despite this one’s many flaws, Rutley succeeds in selling the disturbing theme, mostly due to his use of perverse imagery. Although not always appropriate, it intrigues and draws the audience’s attention back to the screen (as viewers will likely find their attention elsewhere most of the time) at critical moments. Unfortunately, this one bright spot in an otherwise laundry list of annoyances is not enough to pull Amnesiac out of the depths of mediocrity.