DEMENTIA 13 (2017)

Dementia 13 2017.jpg

Studio:       Chiller Films
Director:    Richard LeMay
Writer:       Dan De Filippo, Justin Smith
Producer:  Dan De Filippo
Stars:     Julia Campanelli, Ana Isabelle, Marianne Noscheze, Channing Pickett, Steve Polites, Christian Ryan, Leila Grace, Ben van Berkum, Roland Sands, Donal Brophy, Leif Steinert

Review Score:

30.jpg

Summary:

A ghost, an ax murderer, two thieves, and an estranged family converge upon a castle where everyone¡¯s secrets are exposed.


Synopsis:     

Review:

Francis Ford Coppola¡¯s 1963 directorial debut ¡°Dementia 13¡± is one of those public domain thrillers like ¡°Night of the Living Dead,¡± ¡°Carnival of Souls,¡± or ¡°Plan 9 from Outer Space¡± that appears on almost every horror DVD budget pack ever created.  If you own anything along the lines of ¡°50 Fright Films Collection!¡± or ¡°25 Classic Terrors for $4.99,¡± you more than likely have ¡°Dementia 13¡± on a disc in there somewhere.

Somehow, I¡¯ve never actually sat down to give the movie its due with a viewing, despite it undoubtedly crossing my path on more occasions than can be counted.  Its status as a common inclusion on cheapo compilations subconsciously soured me on considering it in any way essential, so I¡¯ve mostly dismissed the film as a Corman quickie whose main relevance is as a Coppola curiosity.

Having now seen Chiller Films¡¯ 2017 remake, the only fresh inspiration I might have to finally plunge into the original would be to verify if it is as bizarrely ill-conceived as this updated version.  Either that or to see if problems with plotting, pacing, and production stem from the source material or are entirely new issues.  Alas, I¡¯m not driven to solve such mediocre mysteries.  Maybe the movie¡¯s macabre melodrama worked 54 years earlier.  Today, it plays like a silly soap opera shot as a feature film, with all the same overwrought writing and exaggerated acting usually reserved for daytime TV.

The story involves an implausible convergence of a scheming gold digger, her hired gun accomplices, a masked ax murderer, a drowned girl¡¯s vengeful ghost, and a family full of ingrates whose wealthy matriarch talks to dolls.  If that sounds like a nutty amount of nonsense to pack into a slow-burn gothic chiller, wait until a shifty groundskeeper and some backstory about dead Japanese construction workers swirls into the mix.

Considering everything coming together on the grounds of Castle Haloran, where disputes over money mar a memorial service with various nefarious intentions, you¡¯d think the movie wouldn¡¯t be so ploddingly dull.  And yet its faint pulse can¡¯t sustain a full blip of intrigue, despite only having to beat for 80 minutes of semi-supernatural suspense.

Enough ham exists in ¡°Dementia 13¡± to put HoneyBaked out of business.  Actors are all over the place, with some fighting to swallow mismatched accents while others perform as though they¡¯re on a Branson, Missouri dinner theater stage.

A big bite of blame falls on dreadful dialogue.  In its dizzying tailspin to whip up more than one mystery, lines lean in excessively cryptic directions with consistently vague references to ¡°it¡± or other unknown entities.  One woman phones someone with the instruction, ¡°just get it done.¡±  Another says, ¡°he is the only one who can talk her out of it,¡± while someone responds, ¡°talk her out of what?¡±  Viewers sighingly pine to find out too, and the movie doesn¡¯t make the wait interesting.

Additionally dippy exchanges include one crook suggesting he and his partner ¡°ride off into the sunset, like Butch and Sundance,¡± without a hint of irony.  Another features forceful foreshadowing when someone says, ¡°the place looks good,¡± and her companion ominously warns, ¡°looks can be deceiving.¡±

Maybe it doesn¡¯t matter much since the material isn¡¯t engaging to begin with, but poor editing confusingly trips up the tempo.  In one sequence, a woman is seen checking doors in the mansion looking for someplace to hide.  The next shot shows a man outside running toward a car less than one hundred yards away.  Cut to a third tangent that plays out over a two-minute period before jumping back to the man getting in the car, and then finally to the first woman opening a door.  ¡°Dementia 13¡± either has a peculiar sense of timing, or simply doesn¡¯t grasp how to edit concurrent threads together for pacing.

In the ¡®Pros¡¯ column, where entries are few, the sprawling castle grounds make for a visually terrific location.  So much so that the camera can¡¯t stop sweeping in on an overhead drone for yet another establishing shot during every other scene change.  Production design lifts the look a great deal, only to be boned by sore thumb shortcuts such as a prosthetic face wound that looks like it is trying to conceal a baseball on the actor¡¯s cheek.  At least the crew knows enough to film him in profile from the other side of his face.

I don¡¯t know if Coppola¡¯s version also included a cast of inconsistent talent or more storylines than it had the ability to handle.  But even without having seen it, I can say with certainty that ¡°Dementia 13¡± 2017 ends up more like its predecessor than it probably planned on.  By that I mean we can expect the flimsy film to quietly join its 1963 brother as forgotten budget-pack filler.

Review Score:  30