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    Amnesiac (2015): Movie Review

    “As forgettable as the title itself.”   

    “Honey, I put things to sleep for a living…. And they don’t wake up.” This is one of the many riddles that the Woman is fond of saying in Amnesiac. Directed by indie veteran Michael Polish, this slow-burning horror film is about a man who, after waking up from a coma, stumbles upon frightening truths as he tries to retrieve his lost memories. 

    It was the 1960s and on a certain road, a speeding car carries three passengers. On the front seat are two people who keep exchanging furtive glances with each other and at the teenage girl (Olivia Rose Keegan) who appears to be their daughter sleeping in the back seat. When they glance back one more time, the girl screams and the world goes dark.

    A nameless Man (Wes Bentley) awakens from coma in a poorly lit room in a big old house without much furniture. His left leg, apparently injured, is covered in cast. A nameless Woman (Kate Bosworth), in business outfit with hair tight in a bun, takes care of him, promising to nurse him back to health very soon. She keeps pumping drugs into him and closes all the shades in the room.

    The Man seems to have suffered memory loss as he remembers nothing except fragments of what appears to be a road accident. He is also haunted with the face of a girl. Each day he recovers, he senses a creeping sense of danger inside the house. And soon, he finds a dead body in the cellar. 

    Amnesiac is derivative of Stephen King’s Misery (1990) where a man becomes powerless over a woman’s strange behaviors. Story-wise, the film is nothing new and we can only hope that it compensates its lack of original ideas with compelling storytelling and execution. Sadly, it may not have delivered the right results. It opens grippingly with the car accident and the Man’s rise to consciousness. However, it becomes strained from that moment on, too restrained that the film becomes dull and dreary. It is the type that creates creepier moods than scenes, but it takes a long sweet time to find enough tension that the whole narrative comes apart. Its simplistic script is filled with annoying twists. The Woman keeps speaking in trivia while clues are scattered everywhere, like the secret chambers and scampering cats. The subplot about the police investigation also does not enliven the film as the officer only spends most of the time answering phone calls. Frustratingly, all those little pieces don’t coalesce into a gratifying whole, especially with its limp ending that makes you feel bad for your self and good for the Man.

    Like most films in the genre, the present movie is too formulaic and conventional. It is quite minimalist and the large bare house, dim rooms, hospital-like steel bed and a collection of torture weapons are too generic. Director Polish tries to make the most out of his low resource. He captured the film in faded colors and gossamer light which works in establishing a sense of menace. At some points, he used blinding lights which created mystical silhouettes. Vertical shots and rotating camera works are also wonderfully employed. With the efficient use of light, space and angle, Polish has created a visually stylish film.

    Bosworth seems having fun with her performance. Her pretty, blank face and lazy, monotonous and calm ways work perfectly to generate seething chills. As expected, Bentley brings in enough strain with his scruffy face and smooth manners. 

    Amnesiac has decent amount of violence and terror. Yet, even with Polish’s remarkable visual talents, the film is just too lousy and tedious to leave any mark. It’s fitting that the characters are nameless. They are just as forgettable as the entire film.

    Production company: XLRator Media
    Cast: Kate Bosworth, Wes Bentley, Olivia Rose Keegan, Shawshawnee Hall
    Director: Michael Polish
    Screenwriter: Amy Kolquist, Mike Le
    Producer: Richard Halpern
    Production design: Adam Henderson
    Editor: Tim Alverson A.C.E.
    Cinematography: Jayson Crothers
    Score: Aleks de Carvalho


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