9 October 2002 | baldwi27
Worth much more than rating reflects
Being a film buff, and not exclusively a fan of the horror genre, I saw the average rating on imdb and expected a kitchy, amateurish farce-of-a-flick. What it turned out to be caught me absolutely off-guard. The only thing more terrifying than the film itself was the poor overall rating it received on imdb. This is a superb example of a psychological thriller, and certainly the most underrated and underappreciated film of this genre I have ever seen.
Dementia 13 is a fairly simple narrative on the surface, but underneath it is an interweaving story, each branch adding depth and mystery to the story and each branch being a carefully-planned twist of the senses.
My wife, being a huge fan of the genre, especially of films from the 60s, has already encouraged me to watch numerous other films similar in narrative feel, such as "The Innocents" based on The Turn of the Screw by Henry James or "The Haunting" based on the Shirley Jackson story. After seeing so many films, many of which were based on well-crafted stories by famous authors, it astounds me to think that A young Francis Coppola not only directed this superb film, but CONCEIVED it and WROTE it as well. The result reads just as well (and even better, in many cases) than many well-crafted novels, itself being a story of an utmost macabre and chilling nature... and the storytelling leaves little to be desired.
Francis Coppola, only 22 at the time, made this film with a miniscule budget of only $20,000 and an extremely rushed shooting schedule. It is no wonder Coppola blossomed into a well-respected, master craftsman of film. And the limited resources all but completely excuse any of the flaws in this film. Looking at the facts about the film and its maker surely must invoke jealously in any artist who realizes what true masters can accomplish at a young age.
Yes, it is true that Dementia 13 takes elements from Hitchcock's Psycho (among other Hitch films), including anticipatory tension, a finely dissonant score, and even several camera shots, but Coppola isn't just mimicking Hitchcock. He's manipulating the very essence of what makes Hitchcock frightening, while adding his own distinct style and flavor to the film.
And it IS genuinely frightening. It implies unspeakable things and it toys with one's mind as one watches it. And when the screen DOES show you something you've been anticipating, (partly in thanks to the demented film score,) expect to be surprised and expect your skin to tingle something fierce. The psychological angle with which Coppola approached Dementia 13 leaves one with the terrible sense that the human mind REALLY IS capable of this kind of demented horror... which, of course, makes the film all the more terrifying and satisfying.
This film is not merely an amateur's flailing attempt. It is the first masterpiece of a blooming genius.
The rating it has on imdb is appallingly low. I can't even begin to wonder what kinds of bad horror films are getting better ratings by people. Maybe more people just need to see this fairly obscure film before it will get its overdue appreciation. 9 out of 10