Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Nightmares and Ax Murders

Produced by the legendary Roger Corman, who is as much responsible for modern cinema as anyone else, Dementia 13 (1963) was directed by Francis Ford Coppola before he became world famous and created four masterpieces in the 1970s. Despite not being as great as his best work, its still a good solid film that has a decent atmosphere and is in some regards rather eerie. Plus it sports a demented and creepy film score that is underrated.

Desperate to keep her share of her husband's family fortune, a woman covers up the death of her husband and comes to stay at his family's foreboding and old castle in Ireland. While there, she uncovers a dark secret, only to come face to face with a madman wielding an ax. Although the first act is largely set up, when the viewer and the scheming woman encounter the film's primary villain, the movie becomes much more interesting. For you see, a girl drowned years ago, and within this mystery lies the answers to what is really going on with a family who's mother feels is cursed.

Even thought this movie is not scary, there are some good tense moments and Coppola manages to keep the film's secrets mostly hidden until the final act. A couple of scenes feel rather fresh, and the movie overall has a strange quality to it-in some ways Dementia 13 is more old fashioned gothic chiller than it is a 1960s slasher movie. Thankfully Coppola moves events along, and is wise to not draw out anything at all.

Although the film's low budget style and trappings result in a weak cast and limited effects, Coppola used this movie to try and be noticed. The fact that Corman saw something in a man struggling to get his start in Hollywood and gave him an opportunity, later being proven right about said fellow's talents, is why Corman's true talents lay beyond merely making movies geared to make a profit.

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