Technology marches on. Film budgets have pretty much dropped to the point where even I could finance a movie or two without troubling my bank manager, thanks to the increased accessibility of a professional standard of equipment. These days every mobile phone has an HD video camera built into it, editing and effects can be all done on a reasonably powerful laptop, and even a professional-sounding music score can be constructed from pre-recorded library tracks with inexpensive software. So now you or I can produce a decent looking full-length feature on the kind of resources that make The Evil Dead look like Marvel Avengers Assemble. For pocket change financing, the British zombie movie Colin is probably still the record holder at a practically non-existent $70 (£42), but even with an absence of shuffling extras and undead makeup effects, Shawn Holmes' tricksy science-fiction fantasy still wrings every one of its paltry reported three hundred dollars dry. Unfortunately it isn't enough, and while Memory Lane certainly has a solid and intriguing premise, the production simply needed more.
That central premise basically involves returned soldier Nick Boxer killing himself after his kooky new fiancee died of an apparent suicide. But in those few seconds with her in the afterlife, before he's resuscitated by his army buddies, he realises she may have been murdered. And the only way to solve the crime is to revisit her in the hope it will trigger forgotten memories and lead him to her killer, by killing himself repeatedly and trusting his comrades to revive him just in time to bring him back to the real world, Flatliners style. With a bath of ice and an array of light bulbs, he electrocutes himself to revisit the past, looking for that one clue...
The main problem with Memory Lane certainly isn't the idea, rather it's that the meagre resources simply can't do justice to it. A significant problem is sound: either the recording or the mix itself, with too much of the (mumbled) dialogue lost under the cut-and-paste music score, some of which crucially obscured a key plot moment. Frankly even clearer diction (which costs nothing) would have helped! I even played the disc on two players, with no noticeable difference between them. The end result is frustration more than anything else: everything works perfectly well, but it just needed better rendering. Maybe this is all making it sound like I didn't like Memory Lane, which isn't the case: I did, I just wish I had liked it more.
Still, what you certainly can't accuse them of is stinting on the DVD release, which is a 2-disc goldmine of extras that put the likes of many a high-priced studio blockbuster release to shame. Perhaps surprisingly, given the wealth of bonus features, there are no subtitles! But Disc 2 boasts audition tapes, test footage, two short films, deleted bits and pieces, as well as the original screenplay in PDF format (this last helping enormously to clear up a couple of issues that I didn't entirely catch in the film itself).