In the horror genre filmmakers and writers are always looking for new story elements to merge into a story of terror. Recently a few films seem to be looking at a very unique device to tell horror tales: illness and aging. In 2014 an excellent film called The Taking of Deborah Logan, recently retitled simply The Taking, told a tale of possession through the eyes of a woman dealing with her mother having Alzheimer’s. But it turned out the possession was just using the guise of Alzheimer’s to take hold of her. This week a new film, Dementia, tries a similar idea of blending illness with terror without the supernatural edge.
George Lockhart (Gene Jones of The Hateful Eight and The Sacrament) is a disabled elderly war veteran dealing with being diagnosed with dementia. George has been trying to reconnect with his estranged son and granddaughter who have hired a live in nurse to try and help George with everyday life. The nurse, Michelle (Kristina Klebe) seems heaven sent to George’s son but George soon learns Michelle has a much darker side and possibly quite sinister motives. And with George’s dementia, it will be very hard to convince anybody of what is really going on.
Dementia is a fantastic little gem that blends the dramatic family drama dynamic with a terrifying Misery-esque twist that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Jones and Klebe both put in incredibly powerful performances here. Jones convincingly plays the once strong and virile soldier reduced to an old man who is frail and whose mind is betraying him. He is sympathetic yet you can see the man he once was come through in his facial expressions and his will. Klebe gives all recent screen psychos a run for their money as the twisted nurse with ulterior motives. She doesn’t play it as a straight up evil nutbar but subtly plays with the viewer’s expectations as she switches back and forth between caregiver and tormenter. She really is terrifying here and delivers what may be one of her best performances. And this is feature-directing debut of Mike Testin but he was previously an accomplished cinematographer on many projects including the excellent Contracted films. His knowledge of the camera shows in Dementia and is an impressive debut. Dementia is a very intriguing genre blend with great performances and plenty of thrills. Highly recommended.