HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: DEMENTIA (2015)

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DEMENTIA (2015)

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Flick has Viet Nam vet George (Gene Jones from The Sacrament) suffering a stroke, bringing his estranged son Jerry (Peter Cilella) and the granddaughter he never knew, Shelby (Hassie Harrison from Southbound) to care for him. When it is revealed he is also suffering from the beginnings of dementia, Peter hires nurse Michelle (Kristina Klebe from RZ’s Halloween and Tales Of Halloween) to be his live-in caretaker. The moment she moves in, her treatment of George starts to go from strict to abusive and strange things start to occur that Michelle is blaming on George’s illness. Is George’s dementia making him hallucinate, or is this woman some kind of psychotic? George thinks she’s crazy, but will anyone believe him?

There is a good basic story hidden in Meredith Berg’s off-kilter script, but the screenplay is weak and director Mike Testin decides to take the flick into over-the-top territory that spills it into camp. Michelle goes from woman with a dark secret to Wicked Witch of the West very quickly and it neuters the initial success of the story quickly once Klebe starts talking to herself and bugging out her eyes. She is so obviously minus a few screws that it’s almost funny that only Shelby seems to notice…aside from George. There is some good stuff here. It is really disturbing when we first get the impression that George is being mistreated by his nurse. The Viet Nam background adds a twist to the story that interestingly places everything in a grey area in the last act, as we learn Michelle’s true identity and purpose and that George may not be as innocent a victim as we are lead to believe. Problem with this is that the filmmakers should have been more clever about it and not gone so over-the-top with the characters’ behavior. We get tipped off quite early that Michelle is indeed off her rocker and the Viet Nam flashbacks reveal a little too much, so when all the cards are placed on the table, we are already expecting the hand dealt. A little tighter script and a bit of restraint on the director’s part could have made this a very disturbing and intense thriller, but instead it’s campy and we can see the plot twists coming. Sometimes it’s just sloppy such as Michelle binding and gagging Shelby with duct tape in one scene and then suddenly Shelby being conveniently free, minutes later when her participation in a crucial scene requires it. The last we saw her, she wasn’t going anywhere. It comes across as lazy and careless, which is a shame because the basic story and it’s reveals could have made for a really intense thriller with some interesting surprises.

The cast are actually quite good despite the tone of the film veering into camp territory. Gene Jones is solid as cantankerous and stubborn George. We really feel for him when he is forced to deal with his dementia and even more when Michelle starts to mistreat him. When we learn more about how this all links to his time as a POW in Viet Nam, he plays that well too. Klebe is good, especially in the early stages before things get over-the-top and a bit campy. She at first seems pleasant, but we get a hint that something is up with her and then is effective even when required to go full blown Mommie Dearest in the second half of the film. Subtle was working better for the story, but she was good despite being far too young to be who she is revealed to be. Ciella is fine as the estranged son who returns to his father’s side, but is quick to return focus to his own life. After am impressive turn in Southbound, Hassie Harrison impresses again as Gerorge’s granddaughter, Shelby. The pretty blonde teen is the only one that seems to care about what’s going on and begins to investigate his live-in nurse when her behavior gets suspicious.

Despite some good acting and a core story that was interesting, the film disappoints due to a weak and over-the-top execution in script and direction. Subtlety would have worked much better, as well as, not being so obvious as to where this was all headed. The idea that George had skeleton’s in his closet that brought this on was interesting, but we’re tipped off about it far too early as we are about Michelle’s true nature. The idea of someone taunting a person suffering from dementia is horrifying, but it is looses it’s impact when the proceedings take it into camp territory and it just becomes another cliché psycho housekeeper/nanny flick. At least the actors did strong work and young Hassie Harrison shows she has heroine/final girl potential for the second time.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 cute, caring granddaughters.

demensia rating

 

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