In 1963, Roger Corman, the critically acclaimed independent film-maker and academy award winner, gave a young Francis Ford Coppola $22,000 to make and direct his first mainstream movie. Under the specific instructions of Corman, Coppola wrote the plot for a low-budget psychological horror much in the vein of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960), in a single night. The money for the movie came from the leftover funds of Corman’s previous film and it took Coppola just 9 days, using the same set, crew, and actors from The Young Racers (1963) to complete shooting. The movie he made was Dementia 13.
This October sees the release of the remake of Dementia 13 by American film-maker, Richard LeMay, whose previous work includes Children of God (2010), Naked as we Came (2012) and Whirlwind (2007). This modern-day version keeps close to Coppola’s original plot but adds a few nice twists to keep the story fresh and accessible for today’s more demanding film-goers. Those familiar with the 1963 version will pick up on some noticeable divergences in the action, that will leave fans or newbies alike chomping at the bit to find out what will happen at the end.
From the very first frame to the last, Dementia 13 is a beautifully filmed movie. The wonderful cinematography and amazing locations, the atmospheric score and the overall polished feel do all those involved great credit, and it is credit they deserve. It’s clear to see that a lot of time and effort has gone into not only revisiting the original Coppola movie but developing and improving upon it. There are some notable changes amongst the character dynamics and the general happenings but for the most part, the original plot is still intact. However, the violence is bloodier and the scares are bigger, and that’s always good for a horror remake.
So, let’s say you haven’t seen the original, what’s this film all about? In a nutshell, Dementia 13 is a hark back to those great old who-done-it movies. A pre-emptive reunion at the old family estate where the children of an elderly woman have converged to convince her to change her will, and not give all of their inheritance away to the local children’s home. The mother herself is plagued by the memory of her youngest daughter who drowned in the garden pond years before and is convinced that the long since departed Kathleen is still amongst them. The playful ghost’s giggles and whispers can be heard echoing the halls of the great mansion, but what she really wants is for the truth of her untimely death to be confessed by her killer. Throw into the mix some scheming money hungry spouses, an axe-wielding murderer, a hint of insanity and an unscrupulous gang of thugs, and you have this quite bloody, scary, and downright bloomin’ enjoyable movie. As a horror movie fan myself I found plenty of nice little touches to appreciate here, from blood-spurting wounds, shadowy hands (á la Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula), to the way the windows frost up when the ghost is nearby. Expect the odd jump-scare and even some demonic dolls to give Anabelle a run for her money.
Richard LeMay does a wonderful job of bringing this reinvigorated version of Dementia 13 to life, ably assisted by Paul Niccolls’ fantastic camera work and Adonis Tsilimparis’ atmospheric score. Notable mentions must go out to a wonderful cast especially Ben Van Berkum as Kane providing some amusing light-hearted moments, Donal Brophy as the lead thug, and the ear-shattering lungs of Channing Pickett. But in truth, the whole cast does a fantastic job in bringing this film to our screens once again. A highly recommended good old-fashioned horror movie.