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Review: ‘Dementer’ (2021) – Surreal and Scary Imagery Just Tears Through the Narrative and Grabs Us By the Throat

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Sometimes, the past is a ghost that jumps out at us while we’re minding our own business. How many times has a years-old mistake interrupted your day? We’re all haunted by the things that happened before. You can run away from the haunted house, but your past is inescapable. It will always be there, waiting just slightly out-of-frame. God forbid we let our guard down or get too comfortable; the past will always be right there to remind us of just how ugly things were.

Filmmaker Chad Crawford Kinkle seems to have a real sense of how much a person’s history can destroy their present. In his new movie, Dementer (avail. March 2nd from Dark Star Pictures), Kinkle creates a story where the past is on a deadly collision course with the present. A lot of what’s scary in the story happens before the movie begins, and the horror in Dementer comes from the old disrupting the new.

Katie (Katie Groshong) is our main character, and the audience has to piece the story together through her sudden flashbacks. We’re always with Katie, and we experience her terrifying recollections with her. This is one of the movie’s real strengths. All this surreal and scary imagery just tears through the narrative and grabs us by the throat. It’s almost like flashback as jump scare at times, and at the movie’s climax uses it to create the strongest sequence in the whole 80-minute runtime. It’s confusing, but so is processing real trauma.

Dementer Katie Groshong

When she’s not suffering from terrifying hallucinations, Katie is trying to rebuild her life. Whatever she’s running from leads her to find work at a care center for adults with special needs. We can really only guess at what kinds of horrors Katie has escaped. Her violent flashbacks show us a tiny, isolated house, and we can infer that the cult-like rituals performed there are still plaguing Katie now. The way Kinkle has these images appear is almost violent in its jarring presentation. We’re ripped away from her quiet existence.

Katie tries to stay grounded in her work. She really tries hard to do a good job, but it’s tough when she’s constantly confronted with such brutal memories. In her new role, Katie cares for Stephanie, a woman with Down syndrome. Stephanie is played by writer/director Chad Crawford Kinkle’s sister Stephanie Kinkle.

At first, it was more of a documentary style horror film with my sister as the main subject” said Kinkle, “but that quickly turned into a story that would focus on another character that would come into my sister’s world. This made sense since I would be shooting the film on a tight fourteen day schedule. Because my sister is not a high functioning person with Downs, that is normally portrayed in movies and television, I needed another character for the audience to follow.

Dementer 2021 Movie Still

To make any movie is a miracle. To shoot a whole movie like this in fourteen days is a Herculean feat. Kinkle succeeds not only in that, but also in building the entire thing around his sister Stephanie, who really lights up this otherwise very dark movie. Kinkle also edited the film, and he’s very effective in giving everything a very upsetting rhythm.

Genre fans will be excited to see Larry Fessenden listed in the movie’s credits. He’s been in a ton of stuff as an actor, and he’s also written and directed a long list of horror projects as well. His 2019 movie Depraved was a modern reinterpretation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. He was in Session 9, and a bunch of Jim Jarmusch movies, and he wrote the PlayStation game Until Dawn. He also starred in Jug Face, an earlier success by this movie’s writer/director, Chad Crawford Kinkle.

Dementer will be available on digital platforms March 2nd from Dark Star Pictures.

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