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  • Writer's pictureRob Freese

Dementia 13 (2017)

Updated: Feb 1, 2023

The wealthy Haloran clan meet at the family estate for their annual remembrance of young Kathleen, who drowned some fifteen years earlier. Lead by matriarch Gloria Haloran (Julia Campanelli), she uses this reunion to let her children and their spouses know that she is about to donate the family fortune to charity. This does not sit well with the kids.

Gloria spends a lot of time having one-sided conversations with an unseen Kathleen and it doesn't take a Ghostbuster to notice some of the supernatural activity taking place.

In addition, an axe wielding lunatic in a Japanese Noh Mask is running through the tunnels under the house. This specter of death is not shy about burying the axe into the bodies of those assembled.

Mix in a couple double crosses, a trio of thugs hired for a home invasion and a creepy-assed doll and you get a rather entertaining 83 minutes of supernatural-slasher hokum.

Francis Ford Coppola's 1963 original served as his directorial debut, a film he convinced producer Roger Corman to fund in Ireland with left over funds from another production. It is a mystery thriller with axe murders and a hint of supernatural menace. It worked. It was made for drive-ins and flattops and that is where it played on various different bills. Some theater goers were given a Dementia 13 test to make sure they were of sound mind before going into the theater to watch it. Audiences enjoyed it, ate a bunch of popcorn, had some laughs and scares, and then went on to the next picture. It lived on on late night television for years.

Coppola's film did its job.

I feel very strongly that Richard LeMay has taken the same premise from Coppola's film (which is in the public domain) and has also delivered a film that does its job.

LeMay and screenwriters Dan DeFilippo and Justin Smith recreate the beginning of Coppola's film in grand fashion, paying homage, staying true and amping up the grue to the source material. It is a perfect beginning that will have you squirming in your seat at the get-go.

From there the story tells the same story but it goes in different directions, which is where the fun in this little remake resides. Yeah, we've seen this kind of movie before, dozens of times, but Dementia 13 delivers some twistedly gory moments, cheap thrills and sick kicks that are hard to resist if you are just in the mood to kill 83 minutes.

Julia Campanelli is absolutely perfect as Gloria Haloran, just a couple steps removed from the crazy antics of the type of suffering mother seen in a Tennessee Williams play. She especially is at her best when she is chit-chatting with the ghost of her deceased daughter. To her credit, she is a strong female character who loses none of her strength or authority just because she's constantly seen chatting with dead people.

Julia Campanelli as Gloria Haloran. Don't mess with her doll!

The other cast member that commands your attention every time they are on screen is the above mentioned creepy-assed doll. Annabelle has nothing on this Victorian antique looking doll that looks like it dug itself out of a shallow grave. This doll is put to good use and succeeds in producing a couple of the flick's best jump scares. (It reminds me of the creepy-assed doll from Curtains (1983). I think these two dolls could do a hell of a good team-up movie together!)

LeMay's film is a throwback to Coppola's original. It updates the story and delivers a solid barrage of cheap thrills and it does it in under 90 minutes. It is a "programmer," a film made to show. It was not made to impress critics or win awards. Like the original, it was made to show at drive-ins where the audience may be watching or they may be in the back seat fooling around while it is playing. Either way, they bought a ticket. The remake was made for the lamented Chiller Channel and now it can be found streaming and on DVD (courtesy Universal) for an audience to watch in the comfort of their own home, or just have playing in the background while they fool around on the couch. Either way, the streaming/disc is paid for.

I don't think there are enough movies made like this anymore. By that, I mean just a movie that is made as an entertainment. This little flick knows it is not a Marvel or Star Wars movie, and it doesn't want to be. It has a story, a plot, a mystery, characters, surprises and it is all wrapped up in a nifty supernatural slasher story. Blood flows. The cheapest of cheap thrills run amuck. It has its humorous moments. It's over. Go to the next flick.

Dementia 13 (2017). Creepy-assed dolls done right!

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