25th Mar2021

‘Dementer’ VOD Review

by Chris Thomas

Stars: Katie Groshong, Brandy Edmiston, Larry Fessenden, Eller Hall, Scott Hodges, Stephanie Kinkle | Written and Directed by Chad Crawford Kinkle

Cults are a classic horror film troupe for good reason… In Dementer our protagonist Katie (Katie Groshong) runs away from a cult and takes a job caring for people with special needs in a centre. Our opening scene of running naked through the woods, with some surreal horror elements is suitably tense and peculiar.

Our “low on background checks” special needs centre plays out in the manner of a fly on the wall documentary and it works rather well. Katie gets involved with the patients drawing and colouring. She seems to care about the people, and she is clearly off to a good start. She befriends one of the patients, Stephanie, in particular/ Sadly, her past seems to be just behind her. She has tried to mystically protect herself, with charms and the like but between the flashbacks and the sinister forces chasing her, she cannot seem to get much distance between herself and her sinister history.

It is probably fair to say that mental illness and horror films generally have quite an unhealthy history as a pairing. People with mental illness are generally “maniacs” or violent and psychotic. In Dementer the link between those with mental illness and special needs is far more nuanced that I was expecting. Having said that, the wall between surreal horror and the mundane reality of mental illness remains intact once the credits role and the failure to marry these two disparate elements is the ultimate undoing of the film.

The acting, particularly for being such a cheaply made little film is actually very good. Katie Groshong and the other key characters are thoroughly decent and believable.

On the negative side, the “in your face” nature of the psychological horror that Katie is experiencing is full of loud music and seizure inducing flashes. Which I find more stressful than I do scary. I do however consider the film a noble failure, it has tried to do something different and most importantly it has not been disrespectful or exploitative of mental illness (something that is depressingly common among horror B movies).

The final line of Dementer tells us “you will not remember this” and it is not true. As I write this, I am already forgetting I saw this but at the same time I mostly enjoyed it while it lasted.

Dementer is available on digital platforms now, from Dark Star Pictures.

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