Monday, May 20, 2013

Dementia 13 (1963)

UK Title: The Haunted and the Hunted

Director: Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather, Apocalypse Now)

Writers: Francis Ford Coppola, Jack Hill

Starring: Luana Anders (Louise Haloran), William Campbell (Richard Haloran), Bart Patton (Billy Haloran), Eithne Dunne (Lady Haloran), Patrick Magee (Dr. Caleb)

"You Must Pass the "D-13" Test To Prepare You for the Horrifying Experience of Dementia 13. If You Fail the Test...You Will Be Asked to Leave the Theater!

"The Most Terrifying Screen Experience Of Your Life! A Brand New Concept in Motion Picture Shock! A Thrilling New Creation of Terror Thru Sight and Sound, Filmed Entirely in the Shock-Packed Process of Dementia 13!"

Plot Summary:

Although Coppola had been involved in at least two nudie films previously, Dementia 13 served as his first mainstream, "legitimate" directorial effort. 
The plot follows a scheming young woman who, after having inadvertently caused the heart attack death of her husband, attempts to have herself written into her rich mother-in-law's will. She pays a surprise visit to her late husband's family castle inIreland, but her plans become interrupted by an axe-wielding lunatic who begins to stalk and murderously hack away at members of the family. - Wikipedia

Go to this link for the full movie:

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Before anything else, I have to say that this poster is a bit distracting. The woman looks like she's wearing a weird top hat and she reminded me of The Cat in the Hat. And that tagline - i thought I was reading a flyer/poster for some guidance counselling or psych drugs.. Call our HOTLINE numbers and operators listed below!!!

Anyway, considering that this is a low-budget film, with a draft idea written overnight with Psycho as the model in mind, and a final script made in a few days, - the result is surprisingly good.  Dialogue is a bit stilted, and the plot is simple, the "big reveal" is not surprising, but Francis Coppola has managed to use everything to his advantage. Castle Haloran is a perfect setting for the gothic ambience of the film, shots were done in such a way that maximized the creepiness of the surroundings/props, and for a movie that's from the 60's it has a good dose of violence and blood and shows its lead actress in her undergarments.

The story is simple yet eerie and dark, the characters are interesting to watch especially Lady Haloran, Louise, and Dr. Caleb, and the horror scenes are chilling and effective without being campy. What surprised me a bit is the lack of red herring in the plot, I guessed who the killer was really early on and I kept thinking that it's too easy, that I will be proven wrong. But there was no surprise twist. The result of a rushed script.

But underneath the seeming simplicity of the plot and the stilted dialogue, lies a chilling story of a family plagued with an unspeakable horror and tragedy mingled with, as the title suggested, dementia. I really like the camera angles, the play on shadows/darkness, the dark looming facade of the castle, the perfectly placed "scares", the right amount of violence which I'm sure made the audience from that era cringe, and the tension-building musical score. 

The Verdict: 

This film is by no means along the level of Psycho, but it is relevant in its own way as this marks the debut of Coppola, and it's refreshing to see his take on a low-budget horror film and observe his techniques early in his career. He took the gothic, risque, and psychological elements of Psycho and put in his own flavor - the result is a cult classic horror movie that is still worth watching today especially if you are a fan of the horror genre or of Coppola.

My Rating: 3.5/5 =D  

What is your favorite Francis Coppola film?

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