In 1963, Francis Ford Coppola persuaded Roger Corman – who had some spare cash left over from the European production of The Young Racers – to finance a low-budget horror movie shot in Ireland. The title Dementia 13 was – and remains – meaningless, and the UK release monicker, The Haunted and the Hunted, was equally beside the point, if more poetic. This brisk, efficient remake of the property actually takes the UK title at its word and adds a genuine ghost to the mix of axe murders, scheming heirs, inherited madness and general nastiness and cruelty. It touches base with a few of the best-remembered scenes from the original – including an opening act of violence and body disposal on a rowing boat in a lake by a castle – but also seems as influenced by You’re Next as the Coppola. It changes the identity of the main killer from the first film, but adds in a few more murderable Haloran family members to up the body count – though it’d take another viewing to work out who killed who between the home invaders, the scheming heir and the spook, and gauge whether all the culpables have received their apt come-uppance.
Matriarch Gloria Haloran (Julia Campanelli – who had a bit role in Coppola’s little-loved episode of New York Stories) is determined to end the Usher-like curse on her rotten castle-dwelling family by turning the estate over for use as an orphanage, which triggers all sorts of grasping conniving on the part of the rest of her family and hangers-on. She’s still grieving for her daughter Kathleen (Leila Grace), dead as a child in a mystery accident, and ignores or tyrannises her surviving children to spend time holding rituals in a doll-festooned shrine to the kid. Wastrel son John (Christian Ryan) has impulse-married murderous gold-digger Louise (Ana Isabelle), who shoots him in the face and tips him in the lake early on – tossing his classical music-blaring mp3 player after him (not as effective as the transistor radio gurgling rock n roll as it sinks in the earlier film). When Gloria shows up with her living daughters Rose (Channing Pickett) and Billy (Marianne Noscheze)and their variously useless menfolk (Steve Polites, Ben Van Berkum), everyone vaguely wonders where John’s got to but is more annoyed that several valuable antiques are missing. One of the mislaid items is a Japanese mask which turns up worn by a hooded axe-slinger who sets about killing folks … but then Ray (Donal Brophy) and a thug sidekick (Leif Stannart) turn up to help Louise rob the house, only to fall victim to either the axeman or a dollfaced child spook.
Brophy’s brogue is a nod to the original’s Irish setting, but this is a very American film – even with its gothic setting. Even the ghost seems obsessed with property rights. Scripted by Dan DeFillippo and Justin Smith and directed by Richard LeMay, this isn’t a calling card film the way Coppola’s was in 1963. The first Dementia 13 went out of its way to be showy even as it delivered genre thrills the director wasn’t that interested in – he admitted that his story outline was just a list of things he knew Roger Corman liked – whereas this is a solid little programmer with a few plot curveballs, a lot of conventional stuff (the little girl ghost and her playroom) and understated, decent performances. I won’t be surprised if it leads to a Dementia 14.
Chiller Films will be releasing DEMENTIA 13 in US Theaters on October 6th and on VOD and Digital HD on October 10th.
Is it true Corman hated Coppola’s Dementia 13 so much that on seeing it in the screening room he snapped his pencil in half in rage?