By Dr Christopher Reynolds

Dementia Part II is one of those odd curiosities that comes from the modern equivalent of the underground horror scene. It has almost no mainstream appeal, and indeed, at only an hour long, is an awkward length for a multiplex but perfectly suited to horror festival screenings where people might want a longer break between films.

The reason why Dementia Part II is so short is rooted in the constraints under which the film was put together. The Cinepocalypse Film Festival challenged the producers to make a feature in one month from conception to its world premiere at their festival. It’s to the credit of the Matt Mercer and Mike Testin, who co-directed, co-wrote, co-edited and co-produced the film (and in the case of Mercer, starred as well), that they have been able to produce something that not only looks polished but is more entertaining than movies that take many multiples of that time to produce. In particular, the black-and-white cinematography has clearly had thought put into capturing interesting shots and how it assists the flow of the story.

The plot itself is where the limited amount of time to write the script shows: there’s not much of it and essentially it doesn’t matter. The concept wouldn’t support a longer length anyway. Wendell (Matt Mercer), an ex-con handyman, arrives to do some work at the home of Mrs Goldblum (Suzanne Voss), an elderly lady with dementia, and then a series of crazy and gross-out scenes follow. Everybody in this film knows what horror festival audiences want – opportunities for the audience to squirm in disgust and laugh at goofy jokes – and the actors deliver them with aplomb. Familiar genre faces Graham Skipper and Najarra Townsend arrive in supporting roles towards the latter half of the film, but the film belongs to the interplay between Mercer and Voss; Mercer playing the straight man and Voss pulling out the stops to convincingly give a performance that requires her to portray a series of emotions that vary from quiet sadness to violent rage. The portrayal of an elderly mentally ill woman is completely tasteless, as befits the style of movie, but at the same time remains sympathetic to her plight and never resorts to mocking her. It helps that the movie is clearly pitched as an absurd comedy with slapstick violence, so can’t be taken too seriously.

This is the sort of film that won’t receive any attention or appreciation from the mainstream movie crowd, but is recommended to dedicated horror fans and would be instructive as to what can be done in filmmaking with limited time and budget. Try and catch it at a screening if you can, or if not, throw it in as a supporting feature in your next film party, because it will be exponentially better to see with a crowd rather than on your own.

Arrow Video Frightfest Review: Dementia Part II
3.5Overall Score
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