02 November 2015

"DEMENTIA 13" (Chilling 20 Movies Pack, #18)


Alternate Title:
The Haunted and The Hunted

Alternate German Title:
Fright Night

USA, 1963
Director: Francis Ford Coppola


Long before masterpieces like "Apocalpyse Now", "The Godfather" trilogy or "The Conversation", filmmaking legend Francis Ford Coppola started his career with softcore comedies ("Tonight for Sure", "The Bellboy and the Playgirls") and a re-edited, re-dubbed version of some Soviet science fiction film called "Battle Beyond the Sun".

In 1962, he was hired by Roger Corman to work for him on several features ["Tower of London" - dialogue director | "The Young Racers" - sound man | "The Terror" - associate producer, second unit director], before he finally got the chance to shoot his first "legitimate" directorial effort: "Dementia 13", a cool b/w horror-thriller that also works as some kinda proto-slasher, taking place at Haloran Castle in Ireland where a mysterious axe killer strikes terror among the members of the odd and superstitious Haloran family who seem to spend their days celebrating odd yearly ceremonies as a tribute to a long-gone family member who died in a mysterious drowning accident...

With a budget of only $42.000 and a cast that consisted entirely of Coppola's friends from UCLA and members of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, "Dementia 13" eventually turned out to be one of the best and most interesting post-"Psycho" early 60s murder-mystery-thrillers, delivering lots of breathtaking suspense, surprisingly harsh kill scenes and a [SPOILER] totally unexpected midpoint plot twist straight outta Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho" where the main character, um, unexpectedly getting murdered.

There's plenty of really wonderful performances from top-notch actors such as Luana Anders ("Easy Rider"), William Campbell ("Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte") or Patrick Magee ("Barry Lyndon"), a couple of fabulous kills, like the plot-twist-axekill or the at-the-lake decapitation, a scary opening which is probably one of the very, very few scenes in horror history that is scary even though a silly Rockabilly tune is playing in the background (Fuck Rockabilly.), a few neat special effects, some decent camera work and an absolutely stunning score by Ronald Stein ("Spider Baby") which ranges from dark and slow to wild, energetic and slightly insane. Listen to the clip below and you will understand why I'd call Stein one of the most underrated genre-composers of all time. This guy was a genius!

Coppola perfectly handles the balance between nervewracking tension, atmosphere build-up and aggressive kills, delivering a diverting and pretty satisfying little movie. It's not perfect, due to some bad dubbing, a mediocre screenplay and an underwhelming ending, but overall, it's a splendid flick that should give every old-school horror buff a terrific time.

Wiki ~ Imdb

1 comment:

  1. This is a movie that has been available on cheapie VHS and now cheapie DVDs for decades - and it is surprisingly good considering the public domain status and the resources FFC had to work with to make it.


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