Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Dementia 13

--Reviewed by Patrick

Plotline: Dementia 13 is really like two-movies-in-one. The first part deals with the accidental death of John Haloran and his wife's attempt to cover it up and influence his very rich mother to changing her will (she'd planned on giving her fortune to charity, silly woman). Then, halfway through, it abruptly and savagely shifts gears into a tale of insanity and a mysterious axe murderer within the Haloran clan, all centering around their dead sibling, Kathleen.

Scariness factor: For once, there are some honestly creepy moments, most of them accomplished not through physical acts, but effective uses of lighting and music. Speaking of, did I mention that this film was directed by a very young (he was only 24, at the time) Francis Ford Coppola, along with the help of horror guru Roger Corman? One scene in particular takes something as simple as a toy monkey hitting a drum and, with blasts of orchestration and dramatic lightening, turns it into something quite sinister.

Originality: Horror Wood.Com has mentioned it as being the predecessor the slasher flicks that became so prevalent in the 80's and I completely agree. In this film, you can especially see elements of what would become 'Friday the 13th'. But, that was years after. As it stands, for it's time period, it was truly original, despite the fact it was filmed using sets and actors from a previously completely Corman film.

Complaints: First up, Dr. Caleb (the family doctor) annoyed the hell out of me. Though most of the actors put in, if not stellar, adequate performances, he truly seems to be more from the Corman camp than the Coppola. He's over-the-top and so hammy you'll smell bacon whenever he comes on screen. Truly, his presence drags down every scene he's in. Then there's the whole matter of the dead bodies. At one point, the family drains the pool around their estate (which, by then, should be housing about 3 corpses), yet there's no mention of any of them. In fact, there's many such plot holes in the film. For example, the mother of Kathleen (the dead sister), whose insanity plays a huge role in the film, just disappears about 3/4 of the way through, to never appear again. Then the fact that, it seems, once someone dies, they are inquired about once and then never mentioned again, through the whole of the film.

Other High Points: Luana Anders, who plays Louise, the conniving wife of John Haloran, puts in a surprisingly good performance. Maybe she was just a cold bitter b*tch in real life, who knows, but she plays one absolutely perfectly. The movie also really gives impact to the death scenes. In most horror films, you can see the murderer coming a mile away. Either that, or the violence is so constant that you become desensitized to it, as the film goes on. But, in Dementia 13, the murder scenes are so stark and ferocious, you find yourself gasping for breath afterwards.

Overall: Major plot holes aside, Dementia 13 is an enjoyable film filled with enough action to keep most anyone interested. It's also a great chance to catch the early work of Francis Coppola. Also, as a bit of trivia (and quirky retro kitsch), apparent some versions of the film have a prologue in which a psychiatrist would give the audience a test to see if they were stable enough to withstand viewing this film. Unfortunately, my version lacks this interesting sounding scene.

Grade: B+



At 9:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those of us who used to watch Chiller Theater with Bill Cardille (the newsman in the original Night of the Living Dead) have seen most of the movies discussed here recently. For those who didn't see Chiller, it was the inspiration for SCTV's Count Floyd, the Flaherty brothers having grown up watching it. Chiller was on all night Saturday night, showing two, sometimes three movies, until Saturday Night Live came along, when the time was cut back. The movies were usually insipid, running to the likes of Plan 9 or any of the many forgettable Lugosi movies and many that were worse, but there was an occasional winner. Dementia 13 was one of those winners.

At 2:10 PM, Blogger Adam Harvey said...

I wonder if the plot holes ended up on the editing room floor.


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