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Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Review: Dementer

Director: Chad Crawford Kinkle

Screenplay: Chad Crawford Kinkle

Year: 2021

After escaping a cult, a woman tries to restart her life. As part of her efforts, she lands a job assisting people with special needs. In her work, she meets Stephanie, a woman with Down’s Syndrome with whom she feels a special bond. Shortly after being there, Stephanie's health starts deteriorating, and the woman is convinced she is a victim of the same evil forces from which she escaped.

In “Dementer”s first scenes, we meet Katie (Katie Groshong; “A Measure of the Sin”), who we follow for the rest of the movie. These scenes reveal that Katie is affected by some bad experience that she wants to put behind her, highlighted by a large number of dreamcatchers in her car and her obvious physical signs of anxiety while she is being interviewed for the job. The director and screenwriter Chad Crawford Kinkle (“Jug Face”) offers more information by intertwining images that seem to be random memories that haunt Katie.

Randomly intertwining images in the main plot gives it an experimental movie feel while, at the same time, making it confusing. During the plot development, there is not much information about Katie’s backstory and it is the viewer’s job to tie together the images and pieces of information to have an idea of what could have happened. There is neither any information to figure out if the images Katie has on her head are real or if they are the product of a psychological disorder. 

During the whole movie a paranormal ritualistic theme reigns, which makes it unsettling, but it never translates to horror. Instead, it plays with the suspense and flirts every now and then with horror, and when it seems like it will go in, it never dares to take the step. The same thing happens with the music; a great score that suggests more horror than what is shown, but that becomes so repetitive that midway through it has already lost all of its effectiveness. 

One of the most flashy areas of “Dementer” is seeing how it provides an opportunity in cinema to people with disabilities, especially an underrepresented group such as people with Down’s Syndrome. Instead of looking for pre-planned acting, Kinkle makes an effort to capture these people’s everyday activities and the employees that help them and manage to show everything naturally. However, the condition is only used as a vulnerability spot and for nothing else important for the plot.

Those who enjoy independent micro-budget horror movies that play with visuals and an abstract plot, “Dementer”, stand forward as an interesting choice. The plot flirts with horror, but the unsettling atmosphere that follows it from beginning to end is never translated to a horrific or memorable moment, and instead, it prefers to suggest and that the viewer reaches its conclusions. It turns confusing and can be hard to follow for those looking for something more concrete and straight-forward in its effort for being abstract.

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