Dementia 13 (1963)

DEMENTIA131Director: Francis Ford Coppola.
Starring: William Campbell, Luana Anders, Bart Patton. USA. 1h 15m.

An early gem from a powerful director this early 60’s murderous thriller is both creepy and is it absorbing, it swings between being the supernatural and an episode of Columbo, an extremely dark and broody type of Columbo.. except columbo is more of a fastidious olde gent. So the film begins with a tragic accident that couldn’t have come at a worse time for the beautiful Louise (Luana Anders), her nasty partner  John Haloran (Peter Read) has a heart attack and drowns just after teasing her that if he dies she’ll not get any of his inheritance.. from the bottom of the river the creepy ghostly animated credits roll . Louise comes up with a cunning plan to pretend that John has been delayed then makes friends with his family in Ireland, especially his mother and try to weasel her way into some inheritance. To her luck the mother is currently going through a dramatic grieving process after losing her youngest daughter Kathleen to a tragic drowning accident, Louise devises another crafty plan to pretend that the girl is trying to contact her mother through her, so she collects some of her toys from the attic and aims to plant them in the pond where she drowned the aim is that they will surface at an opportune moment, but while planting the toys she notices movement in the underwater tomb and then she’s brutally murdered while trying to escape the water.

You must past the D-13 test to prepare you for the horrifying experience of Dementia 13, if you fail the test… you will be asked to leave the theater!

It’s hard to believe this is just the beginning of the movie, but it the better part, things do start to slip a little as the suspected murder of Louise is investigated but eventually the pace reawakens.


The atmosphere and techniques of the film remind me of a more refined version of Carnival of Souls (1962), the setting of an old Irish castle pays off for a great gothic atmosphere, the budget was limited so having this eerie backdrop does help this slasher remain edgy. When it boils down it’s not too much above par from any other horror of the time, there are some scenes which are quite Prisoner-esque and could have relished some very psychotropic effects. It’s a respectable thriller and one of the early slashers; usually when I think of slashers I think of 1970’s Giallo but the axe wielding maniac … Demented maniac in this film is actually quite terrifying. The family and the probing inspector remain quite isolated but picking out the unstable psycho. There are some limitations in the production of the movie and at times it can be quite whimsical but once the drama starts to simmer after the fantastic opening and first murder you can see a few trademarks that Coppola has continued throughout his career. There have been many criticism of the initial murder being ripped off from Psycho, (1960) and it can’t be denied that both women are partial dressed/naked and wet but that’s where it ends, while the Psycho shower scene still remains quite dramatic and still keeps me on edge this night time dive in the lake that ends in a blood bath has a different edge of eroticism and atmosphere and comes just after a supernatural scare. The film is packed with these double scares, the audience contending with the haunting vs slasher frights throughout the film and go off like firecrackers.




Rating 6/10

RCarnival of Souls (1962),  Psycho, (1960)
L – Haunting Films,
5S – Francis Ford Coppola
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