In 1963 legendary producer Roger Corman gave an aspiring writer director named Francis Ford Coppola a shot at his first legit credit (he’d done a couple of nudies and some uncredited reshoots on Corman’s THE TERROR). The result was the low budget classic DEMENTIA 13 (1969). Now in 2017 SyFy’s spooky sibling Chiller has given us an updated version. Can this updated DEMENTIA 13 (2017) match the original, a film that gave so many of us older fans nightmares?
The new version keeps the basic plot of a very dysfunctional family gathering at their castle amidst all manner of literal and figurative backstabbing over inheritances and their matriarch’s obsession with her dead daughter and a masked and hooded figure with a large axe stalking the grounds. However there are now subplots involving ghosts, a creepy doll and a violent home invasion.
DEMENTIA 13 really didn’t need a remake but there is one and it certainly could have been a lot worse. The main problem is that Chiller Films is an offshoot of the Chiller Network and its parent NBC, so this is going to be horror played safe, made to have a long run on basic cable after its theatrical and VOD run. Contrast that to the original, a cheap, gritty shocker meant for the boundary pushing drive in circuit and you see the problem.
It’s actually a great film for the market it’s aimed at, it never gets boring, it’s a well made, fairly sanitized, (there are a couple of gory moments, including a nasty hammer killing), mix of currently hot genre plot points. Indeed, there’s so little of the original left that selling it as a remake seems counter productive, those looking for that kind of a film are not going to be happy with the CONJURING/ANNABELLE type film this becomes and those looking for that kind of a film may be put off by the association with the original. It would have been better marketed as an original, and a more faithful remake of Coppola’s film gone out under that title.
In the end though, DEMENTIA 13 is an acceptable slice of horror lite, great for watching with somebody who isn’t into really creepy stuff or for killing time on a rainy afternoon. It’s no classic, but there’s much, much worse out there.
Chiller films will be released DEMENTIA 13 in Theaters on October 6, 2017 and on VOD and Digital HD on October 10, 2017.