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[Review] Dementia Part II (FilmQuest 2018): Unsettling Humor and Fine Performances Drive Senior Citizen Terror Tale

With Dementia Part II, co-writers and co-directors Mike Testin and Matt Mercer have crafted a horror film with darkly comic moments, filled with imagery and situations that will make even seasoned scare fare veterans squeamish. Most viewers will likely be constantly alternating between grinning and grimacing. The facts that the often comic film is a sequel of sorts to Testin’s 2015 straight thriller Dementia and that it went from pre-production to finished product in one month — on a challenge, no less — make the movie even more intriguing.

Mercer stars as a down-on-his luck ex-con named Wendell who starts a job as an odd job repairman assigned to do some plumbing work for elderly Suzanne Goldblum (Suzanne Voss). Although at first she is seemingly nice, if a bit overly talkative, as some lonely seniors can be, her behavior becomes increasingly bizarre as she begins to exhibit traits related to dementia. An uneasy Wendell is understandably unnerved by Suzanne’s displays, but the large-denomination bills she keeps tipping him with make him stay longer than he expected. His situation is further complicated by the appearances of a woman who may be Suzanne’s daughter (Najarra Townsend as Sheila) and his domineering — to put it mildly — parole officer, Reggie Billford (Graham Skipper).

Voss is incredible as Suzanne, going from sweet elderly lady reminiscing about her past and her deceased husband to an irate, assault-weapon-bearing threat, to an absolutely out-of-her-mind, gory terror without missing a beat. She picked up one of the two Best Supporting Actress Awards at FilmQuest at the Covey Center for the Arts and Velour Live Music Gallery in Provo, Utah, during the film festival’s September 8–16 run, and deservedly so (the other one going to Kathleen Quinlan for the science-fiction shocker Chimera). She provides most of the film’s creepiest, shudder-inducing moments, and there are plenty. Some are visceral and blood-soaked, while others are more of the psychological bent.

Mercer is a treat, as well, investing the hapless Wendell with a winning blend of confusion, sympathy, and survival skills. He’s a character you can’t help but root for, especially when Skipper lays the crass, boorish behavior on thick as the parole officer. Townsend plays the secretive Sheila wonderfully.

Testin also handled the cinematography, which is strikingly beautiful black-and-white that is a perfect choice for the film. David Labovitch’s score adds yet another fun, histrionic element to the proceedings.

Dementia Part II pushes the boundaries of taste, providing plenty of nail-biting, stomach-churning, and riotously funny scenes throughout its brief 86-minute running time. It’s one of the most fun — and at times hilariously uncomfortable —  movie-watching experiences this reviewer has had this year.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Joseph Perry
Joseph Perry fell in love with horror films as a preschooler when he first saw the Gill-Man swim across the TV screen in "The Creature from The Black Lagoon" and Mothra battle Godzilla in "Godzilla Vs. The Thing.” His education in fright fare continued with TV series such as "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits," along with legendary northern California horror host Bob Wilkins’ "Creature Features." His love for silver age and golden age comic books, including horror titles from Gold Key, Dell, and Marvel started around age 5. He is a contributing writer for Gruesome Magazine, "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" magazine, "Diabolique" magazine, and the websites That's Not Current, The Scariest Things, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Decades of Horror: The Classic Era" and "Uphill Both Ways" podcasts. Joseph has also written for “Scream” magazine, "Filmfax" magazine, “SQ Horror” magazine, and HorrorNews.net. He occasionally proudly co-writies articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right. A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.
Joseph Perry
Joseph Perry fell in love with horror films as a preschooler when he first saw the Gill-Man swim across the TV screen in "The Creature from The Black Lagoon" and Mothra battle Godzilla in "Godzilla Vs. The Thing.” His education in fright fare continued with TV series such as "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits," along with legendary northern California horror host Bob Wilkins’ "Creature Features." His love for silver age and golden age comic books, including horror titles from Gold Key, Dell, and Marvel started around age 5. He is a contributing writer for Gruesome Magazine, "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" magazine, "Diabolique" magazine, and the websites That's Not Current, The Scariest Things, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Decades of Horror: The Classic Era" and "Uphill Both Ways" podcasts. Joseph has also written for “Scream” magazine, "Filmfax" magazine, “SQ Horror” magazine, and HorrorNews.net. He occasionally proudly co-writies articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right. A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.
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