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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Dementia 13

I'm going to go back in time for my first movie... all the way back to when Francis Ford Coppola was just starting out... back to 1963...

Producer Roger Corman hired Coppola to direct "Dementia 13" right after shooting the movie "The Young Racers," with a budget of $22,000.00, and his friends acting in it for about $600.00.  The script was written in about three days, and shows in the slight stiffness of the dialogue.  When it was released in theatres, Corman insisted on having a William Castle-like "prologue", where a "professional psychiatrist" discusses the D-13 test handed out to the audience... in order to see if they were mentally fit to watch the movie.

For me, this is one of my favorite horror movies.  True, the dialogue is stiff and awkward, and the storyline is a little confusing and disjointed, but under that roughness created by the short span of time used to write and film the movie, you can see the potential sparkle of a true gem.

The characters are interesting, and they actors do a great job of portraying them.  William Campbell (who Star Trek fans will recognize as Trelane from "The Squire of Gothos" episode of the Original Series, and as the Klingon Captain Koloth), was superbe as the moody elder Haloran brother.  I also enjoyed Patrick Magee's turn as the slightly condescending and sinister Dr. Caleb... even if I did want the character to die...

Coppola uses his budget well by being creative with the camera angles, limiting the number of locations needed for shooting, and his use of shadows and light to create an errie and ominous mood.  The scene with the child's bedroom and the toy monkey still gives me goosebumps.

It's been claimed that this is a gorey film, but it's not really.  In fact, there are only two "gorey" scenes, with very little blood on the screen.  In fact, horror fans looking for a high body count will be a little dissatisfied with this movie.  But the scenes are well shot, and suspenseful, which- for me at least, balanced things out.

Now, I'm known amongst my friends for having a rabid dislike and wariness of remakes- especially of horror films (something I'll discuss at a later date).  Having said that, "Dementia 13" is a movie that I'd love to do a remake of, since the general storyline offers opportunities for more insight and development of the characters.  There is potential to bring something new to this movie.

Despite the stilted dialogue, and rushed production values, I would have to rate this movie (according to the rating system used by my friends at "Film Reviews From the Basement"), as solidly in "The Good"

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