Before Francis Ford Coppola revolutionized film-making with The Godfather and Apocalypse Now, he directed Dementia 13. A low-budget, black-and-white chiller, Dementia 13 is the type of movie with which only die-hard horror fans are familiar. In this respect, Coppola’s directorial debut is an ideal candidate for the remake treatment. After making little to no waves when released, the 2017 version of Dementia 13 is now available on Netflix.
Several years ago, the Haloran family lost Kathleen, the youngest sibling, in a tragic drowning accident. Now the Haloran family matriarch, Gloria, and her remaining adult children have gathered at the family mansion for a memorial service. Though his new wife has already arrived, eldest son Dale is nowhere to be found. Daughters Rose and Billy are quibbling with one another over the family inheritance. Meanwhile a masked ax-wielding killer, gun-toting thugs, and a ghostly apparition stalk the mansion’s halls.
Dementia 13 is a Movie Packed With Ideas
Give screenwriters Dan DeFilippo and Justin Smith credit, Dementia 13 doesn’t suffer from a lack of ideas. Part ghost story, part murder mystery, Dementia 13 takes a ‘kitchen sink’ approach. Other horror movies have incorporated other genres as midpoint ‘bait-and-switch’ approaches to story-telling. Back in the 90’s, Robert Rodriguez mixed ‘outlaws on the lam’ with vampires to bloody effect in From Dusk Till Dawn. Love it or hate it, Steve Mena’s Malevolence fused crime drama with the slasher template.
Dementia 13 occasionally surprises, but never feels focused.
On the one hand, Dementia 13’s busy story-line keeps you guessing. What starts as a tale of greed and murder gives way to a ‘stalk and slash’ mystery straight out of an Agatha Christie novel. As these story elements develop and merge, the specter of supernatural forces lingers in the background. Unfortunately, none of these plot directions really gels together. Moreover, Dementia 13 never really develops any of these story threads fully. The murder-mystery and masked killer, for example, never capitalizes on its inherent ‘whodunnit” question. Dementia 13 occasionally surprises, but never feels focused.
An Inconsistent Patchwork of Styles
Dementia 13 is an inconsistent and, as a result, frustrating movie. Certainly, this is a nice movie to look at. Cinematographer Paul Niccolls makes the old castle and its property look as sweeping and haunting as it should for this type of movie. In addition, director Richard LeMay does a more than competent job setting up some scares. Horror fans may find some shots effectively creepy. But there’s not much in the movie that will linger after it’s over. Yes, some camera shots evoke some unsettling atmosphere. Still there’s no genuinely scary ‘gotcha’ moment, LeMay doesn’t craft nearly enough suspense to neglect the odd jump scare here and there.
Courtesy of special effects supervisor, Mr. Dead, Dementia 13 boasts a few good death scenes. Where the movie falters is its own inability to settle on a consistent style.
Perhaps the most impressive part of Dementia 13 are its limited gore effects. Courtesy of special effects supervisor, Mr. Dead, Dementia 13 boasts a few good death scenes. Where the movie falters is its own inability to settle on a consistent style. For much of the movie, LeMay is making a supernatural tale of greed and revenge for past misdeeds. At other times, Dementia 13 feels like a ‘stalk and slasher’ home invasion flick. LeMay doesn’t execute either of these styles poorly. It’s just that nothing really feels like it sticks together well.
Dementia 13 an Adequate Time-Waster
Neither particularly good nor downright awful, Dementia 13 is an adequate time-waster. There are far worse options floating around on Netflix right now. Younger horrors may find some of the chills and gore to be satisfying. More savvy genre enthusiasts will find the whole thing mildly passable. At the very least, there probably aren’t enough fans of Coppola’s original to be offended by this remake.