Dementer is an original film that defies categorization. This picture has an authentic and genuinely disturbing feel created by a mix of grainy, surreal imagery seamlessly woven into a stark reality that has a documentary-style feel. The overall affect is disorienting—and not in a negative way—it draws the viewer into the mind of someone who has been psychologically traumatized. The film invites the viewer into the inner life of Katie (Katie Groshong) , a woman with a dark past who was involved with some sort of cult. Through the use of music, lighting and sound the filmmaker creates a feel of psychological disturbance.
In the beginning, we’re bombarded by bizarre imagery, sound and music. We see a woman running in an isolated area interspersed with a campfire and a whispery male voice. Then, the movie cuts to the extreme realism of a very nervous and fidgety Katie on a job interview. Katie is hired to work at a facility for adults with special needs. We get a sense that Katie goes into a rec room where she’s interacting with clients and someone shows her a cartoonish picture of a witch that he colored in with crayon. Katie has a flashback of images from the beginning of the movie—darkness, a fire, odd rhythmic chiming of a tambourine and a man whispering, cut with her in the present, sitting at the table, bringing a hand to her head. When her co-worker Brandy (Brandy Edmiston), asks her what’s wrong, Katie tells her that she just has a headache.
The effect of these flashbacks is disorienting to the viewer in a way that draws you into the perspective of the main character. These dark, grainy images of a ritualistic atmosphere with an altar, candles, and odd music are cut with the stark realism of Katie working at the facility, which has a documentary-style feel. There’s a man (Larry Fessenden), presumably the leader of the cult Katie had been involved in, who also provides the voiceovers in the flashbacks, teaching her about devils.
Part of Katie’s work week is spent at a group home where she’ll care for three adults overnight. Katie becomes obsessed with one of her clients, Stephanie (Stephanie Kinkle). Katie has a vision during her first all-nighter where she sees a vision of a symbol from the cult in blood on Stephanie’s door. Stephanie wakes up sick, and her condition worsens throughout the film. As Stephanie’s condition progresses, Katie consults a journal and performs rituals to keep away the devils she believes are after Stephanie.
The performances are very effective. The shift from the surreal, ritualistic flashbacks to stark reality of Katie’s day to day life draw the viewer into Katie’s mind. There’s a feeling of being disoriented. There’s no disorientation, instability or supernatural events happening to the other characters. Katie’s co-worker Brandy suspects something is wrong with Katie. It leads the viewer to believe that Katie has been psychologically traumatized.
Dementer is a very different type of horror movie, but achieves it’s end of creating not only a portrait of a disturbed, traumatized individual, but drawing the viewer in to this person’s experience.
Writer and director Chad Crawford Kinkle (Jug Face) shot Dementer in his hometown with himself as the only camera operator, which gives the film it’s sense of authenticity. His sister plays, Stephanie, who has Down Syndrome, the focus of Katie’s obsession. The story behind the making of this film is interesting. He had an idea to write a horror film around his sister, Stephanie, who has Down Syndrome. It was after he saw a film called The Tribe, which takes place at a school for deaf teens.
An official selection of the Nashville Film Festival and the Chattanooga Film Festival, Dementer will be available on digital platforms March 2, 2021 from Dark Star Pictures.
Wicked rating: 8/10
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