Dementia 13

April 20, 2014 at 10:56 pm (5 Heads, Dementia 13) (, , , , )

Dementia 13 – 1963 – United States

A family living in an Irish castle is haunted by tragedy. Seven years prior, a girl drowned in the castle’s lake. Her mother and brothers are deeply disturbed and reenact her funeral annually. When the brothers’ American girlfriends visit the castle, strange occurrences begin, culminating in axe murders.

Producer Roger Corman was initially involved very little with Dementia 13’s production, leaving it to writer/director Francis Ford Coppola. Apparently, Corman viewed the film and was upset by its lack of violence and comprehensibility. He ordered changes opposed by Coppola and the resulting movie betrays its conflicted origin. The plot feels patched together, relying on stilted dialogue and voiceovers to explain the characters’ intentions. The result is a silly whodunit which is only unpredictable due to numerous plot holes and red herrings. Its single surprising moment involves a conniving gold digger who conceals her husband’s death and fakes ghostly happenings to drive her mother-in-law insane. Her machinations form the central conflict until she is unexpectedly killed halfway through. A similar twist is seen in Pyscho (1960), which Corman supposedly instructed Coppola to imitate.

At least Dementia 13’s atmosphere and violence is evocative. Moody lighting, elegant compositions, and a genuine Irish castle create a gloomy mood. The film’s weaknesses mostly relate to its rushed and haphazard production, artifacts of Corman’s thrifty methods. Dementia 13 is definitely evidence that Coppola was destined for bigger things.

Rating: 5/10 Shrunken Heads. What is the significance of the number 13 in Dementia 13’s title?

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