Amnesiac (Movie Review)

Amnesiac (Movie Review)
5 10

PLOT: When a man comes to after losing his memory in a violent car crash, he slowly begins to suspect the woman claiming to be his wife might be a dangerous stranger with murderous intent.

REVIEW: Ever since bursting onto the scene with TWIN FALLS IDAHO in 1999, filmmaking bros Mark and Michael Polish have largely continued their collaborative relationship, succeeding most when authoring their own original screenplays. Alas, in his second foray without Mark (behind BIG SUR), Michael Polish has recruited a couple of inchoate screenwriters to turn AMNESIAC into an uneven vanity project for his wife Kate Bosworth. Perhaps not the wisest move. Self-indulgence aside however, as Bosworth acquits herself well enough, the real issue with AMNESIAC is that it not only cribs too much of its conceit from Stephen King's MISERY, its deathly serious tone and wistful pacing fires slower than the deteriorated synapses of its main character. And despite a few good moments, I'd imagine there's no more delicious irony than a movie called AMNESIAC being mostly unmemorable.

As we begin, a nameless man (Wes Bentley) and woman (Bosworth) enjoy a sunny countryside drive, top down, doing so with a young girl in the backseat we assume is their daughter. Yet, after a vicious car-crash renders the man incapable of remembering so much as his own name, he eventually regains consciousness to find his so-called loving wife - a veterinary nurse by trade - alive and well and tending to his every bedside need. But where's the little girl? Well, as a victim of amnesia, that's the last thing on the man's deteriorated mind. Instead, he's focusing on getting better, which he's told entails lots of rest. But even for a guy who can't make heads or tails of much of anything, the man slowly starts to notice something afoul with his wife. She's too orderly, too preening. So when she goes to work one day, the man hobbles on a broken leg down to the basement, where he finds a dead body stacked in the corner. What. The. F*ck.

When the ol' ball and chain returns, she's instantly hit by the man's suspicion. When he asks about the cold dead corpse in the cellar, she goes all Annie Wilkes on his ass and straps him back into bed, where she proceeds to torture and terrorize the ever loving piss out of the poor fella, all while still maintaining the guise of his caring partner. She clamps elector-shock nodules to his dome and juices the poor bastard into an even further vegetable state. Some wife, right? Wrong. It soon comes to light that the woman may not be the man's wife at all, but a sadistic psychopath with an insatiable penchant for putting things to sleep. Callers come a knocking, police folk and mailmen and such, only to ultimately catch the woman's unbridled wrath. It isn't until the little girl is found held captive in a cage in the attic that the woman's icily cunning and calculating nature is revealed to the man, but by then the course of fate may be irrevocably set. Think he can make it out alive?

I can't say much more in terms of plot other than, despite a lazily shoehorned third act twist, I think AMNESIAC ends stronger than it starts. Once Bentley begins to realize something is seriously awry with his ostensible wifey, the pace picks up in lethal lockstep with the stints of violence. Sure, most of the brutality is shown in aftermath, with rare shots of actual penetration, but for a movie so sleight and with so few locations and characters, there's a decent amount of bloodshed here to keep horror heads more or less amused. The basement set-piece in particular, where most of the carnage is inflicted, serves as a creepily ambient departure from the cold and clinical upstairs area. It's here that Bosworth gets to unleash the evil and show her true malefic colors, which often results as the more entertaining parts of the flick.

But that's hardly enough to make a lasting impression. In the end, the flick wants to be a psychological thriller, a trap and torture outing, and, as slightly glanced upon above, a late-in-the-day kidnap yarn. In aggregate, the flick doesn't quite jive, especially at a mere 81 minutes. If anything, it's best when Bosworth is exacting fits of violent rage, but since the mystery surrounding who she is and why she's acting so maniacally is never really expounding upon, the overall impact leaves a sense of incompletion. And again, it's not like we've never seen this material before. Let's be real, Bosworth is no Bates, Bentley is no Caan and Polish is no Reiner. Worse yet, tyro scribes Amy Kolquist and Mike Le are no goddamn Stephen King and William Goldman. Honestly, they're just lucky being mentioned in the same sentence as those two hall of famers.

All in all, AMNESIAC does a few things well, but they're too derivative to really stand out. At its best, the flicks features some steadily competent camerawork by Jayson Crothers, an effectively forged dreamlike mood (albeit with an overly austere tone) and a wickedly wanton turn by Bosworth who we can tell is reveling in the fun...the amalgam of which is almost enough for AMNESIAC to stay on the brain. Sadly, the sluggish start, a deathly grave tenor, a thankless performance by bedridden Bentley as a glossy-eyed inebriate, and the utter lack of a credibly satisfying motive behind the woman's dastard deceit makes the flick feel little more than a cheaply effete MISERY imitation. Forget about it!

Extra Tidbit: AMNESIAC hits select theaters on August 14, 2015.
Source: AITH



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