Remember (2015)

Atom Egoyan’s (The Captive, 2014) latest movie revolves around an elderly Zev Guttman (Christopher Plummer, The Last Station 2009) with early stages of dementia who has recently lost his wife, both of whom lived in a retirement home. With Zev is Max Rosenbaum (Martin Landau, David and Fatima, 2008) another elderly Jewish concentration camp survivor, like the others.

Physically fit but mentally starting to suffer form dementia, Zev is about to undertake a cross-country journey in search of the man who they believe Killed so many of their family members;  a man called Rudy Kurlander. He is aided in this search by Mrememberax who despite being physically limited and confined to a chair, still has a sharp mind and has done all of the research.  He constantly reminds Zev of the pledge he made to his dying wife to find and kill the man responsible for so much suffering.

They have the name of the man responsible, as well as the knowledge that he moved to the US some years ago. Max has managed to trace the four Rudy Kurlanders alive in the US who might meet the description of the man in question.

Alone and with a letter from Max detailing everything (to help him remember), Zev sets out on a journey. As he progresses, he meets four very different people, one turns out to be a non-Jewish fellow Holocaust survivor on the edge of death, with whom Zev can spend a few minutes in shared grief. This in contrast to the former soldier, just an ordinary person not involved in the evil of the concentration camps and who claimed, like many others, not to know what was happening at that time. We can look at these people as individuals with a part to play or take the larger view, that they each represent a condition of humanity, the innocent victims, those blind to the atrocities, and as we shall see, the inherited evil of life and those who deny their own identity, hiding from their judgement.

As Zev progresses, with Max’s help and support, he eventually tracks down yet another Kurlander, John Kurlander, this time he is a policeman (Dean Norris, Secret in their Eyes 2015) son of a former Nazi. Kurlander jnr. Is proud of his father’s past and is happy to show Zev around, until he realises he is Jewish and the attitude changes completely. This is one of the more tense periods of the movie, where we genuinely do not know if Zev will survive it.

Against this Zev’s own son (Henry Czerny, The Fifth Patient, 2007) is frantically trying to find him, and manages to traxck him down to the home of the last Rudy Kurlander and arrives at the house shortly after Zev himself arrived. This last home is where this Rudy Kurlander (Jurgen Prochnow, Das Boot, 1981)  lives with his daughter and her family, in what can only be described as comfortable surroundings. Rudy does not like to discuss what happened in the war. This is said to Zev immediately, but they meet and begin to talk. Soon after Zev’s son arrives the situation come to a climax. Yes the others were Rudy Kurlanders, but this man was not, he had another identity, one known to Zev, even if he did not realise it due to his dementia, when the memory finally falls in to place and the big question from his search needs to be reassessed, Zev has only one “decent” course of action open to him.

Maybe Max knew Zev’s secret, more than Zev did. A slow boiler which brings you along, it was released shortly after Landau’s passing, but we still have Plummer giving his art to the world.

I need to mark this one out of 10, – 7/10, There are a number of scenes which are powerful in their simplicity, speaking with the young boy on a train, thinking he was his grandson, buyng a gun despite barely being in control of his abilities and the final climax where the truth is exposed finally; they all come together to give a solid production.

Dead Snow

By Special request for Stuart 🙂

The great thing about Dead Snow is that it follows the formula necessary for such productions and sticks to it. Possibly one of the most influential Nazi zombie snow movies ever made. You get the gist. When making a movie in a genre that has been hackneyed to death (sorry!) , as you may know,  there is a formula for these movies – an abandoned cottage , or dark basement/castle or some other deserted/creepy place. A handful of students ranging from the sporty to nerd, male and female – you’ve seen the movie, you know what I’m talking about. Anyway, in this case we got a group of Norwegian students, up in the mountains, miles away from civilisation and nothing there for them except their cabin. Plans all made for a busy weekend of “studying”. I’m not mentioning what happened in the outhouse, you’ll have to watch for yourselves.
The film was directed and written by Tommy Wirkola (Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, 2013) he also gave himself a cameo role as one of the dying zombies.  Our seven heroes are all settled when they have a night visitor, who has a simple warning for them “there’s an evil presence here”.  The first thing you notice when watching is that there’s not much of an original thought here, but it is done well. There’s even a reference to “Friday the 13th”. They learn of the Nazi past  and the missing soldiers believed to have frozen on the mountains. Not long after, we get introduced to our resurrecting zombies, disturbed by the students. In the course of this all the usual happens, they split up, one has to amputate his own arm and so on.
The ensuing zombie chase to kill our Norwegian friends provides us with all the glorious blood splattering, intestine spewing gore expected of such a movie. But it is done so well… There are a few directors  who have managed to perfect this sub-genre (zombie Horror movies), Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead 1981) and George Romero (Night of the Living Dead, 1968) are the obvious examples.  Wirkola knew what  he wanted and went for it.
The plot is as it is – holidaying teenagers alone in a cabin discover an evil nasty (in this case Nazi Zombies) and then spend the best part of 90 minutes largely failing to escape them, indeed not only failing to escape but also perhaps failing to survive. There are of course some glaring plot holes, but these are made up for by the one of the students who actually knows his movie trivia and drops in the appropriate one liner when needed, a good  writing move.
It should be pointed out that these are no ordinary zombies, they are Nazi zombies and as such are a determined bunch (either that or hungry), chasing victims up trees (forcing the victim up the tree), of course in her case if she had not being wearing a bright red jacket in snow, or climbed up the only tree with a crow’s nest – the trouble with disturbing crows is that they make noise, al lot of it. Telling them to sush is not very productive or helpful when there is a zombie just below you. On the bright side, when falling off a cliff, their intestines are more than strong enough to catch and hold on to (take note in case you ever find yourself in a similar situation).
You will note that I’m not listing off the world famous Norwegian movie stars who played the hapless victims, being honest, they were fodder, for script and zombies. Some people have damned this movie as derivative and unoriginal, sure, but was it meant to be new and original? I will however credit Ørjan Gamst as Colonel Herzog (who will be in the sequel). This movie is not about Shakespearian monologues, or slow sweeping vistas Ang Lee would be proud of. No  the camera work is rationed, each second of screen time is there for a reason, ala Guilermo del Toro. I’m going to stop on this point right now. Well just adding that in fairness this movie was not done on a huge Hollywood budget, but managed to use its finances well and produce a well-crafted offering. Just because a movie is not big-budget doesn’t mean it has to look cheap and dated.
This movie works quite simply because it is a comedy, designed to put a smile on our faces and not take itself too seriously. That said I’ve developed serious bouts of the giggles at other horror flicks but often because they were so poorly produced, regardless of budget, they were always going to be bad. What makes this movie actually watchable is that it was technically made well, all things considered.
The plot is thinner than the ice they are on and like most things in the frozen Norwegian   mountains, needs time to warm up, but after about the first 15 minutes things get lively with the appearance of the zombie Nazis. Leave your brain in the bedroom, and just sit back and enjoy. Yes,  it is derivative; no,  it is not very original;  but maybe you’ll enjoy it.

There’s not much more you can say about students being chased around a deserted mountain by zombies. Just as Cabin Fever worked because of its satirical approach, this works because of a similar approach, but no so much satire as light-hearted homage to those movies which  went before it.
Three stars – a respectable score, especially given the starting point.