Dementia 13 (1963)

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola [Other horror films: The Terror (1963), Dracula (1992), Supernova (2000), Twixt (2011)]

This proto-slasher has always been interesting to me. I’ve never found it a great movie, and rarely have I found it good, but I do appreciate the combination of an old dark house mystery style of horror from the 1920’s and 1930’s with the emerging slasher (and arguably giallo) stories of the 1960’s. Dementia 13 isn’t a good movie, but I do think it’s one that’s certainly worth experiencing.

Obviously this isn’t H.G. Lewis – there’s no excessive gore here, and in fact, barely any gore at all. It’s also black-and-white, and focuses more on the atmosphere than it really does the kills. That said, we do get some okay kills here (by an unseen assailant with an ax), and some skin from Luana Anders (no nudity, of course, but solid, smooth skin), and the mystery is almost fun, so that helps also.

William Campbell and Bart Patton were decent as brothers, but I sort of wish we saw more of them actually acting like brothers as opposed to feeling like two people who live in the same house without ever seeing each other. Though now that I think about it, the house is certainly large enough to warrant that excuse. Either way, both were decent, but I don’t think either one was all that amazing.

Neither Mary Mitchel or Luana Anders were really all that special, either – Anders might get higher accolades, though, as her character actually did something. Patrick Magee (who’s been in quite a few horror films, Tales from the Crypt being the role I’m most familiar with) was okay, but he felt a bit over-the-top here, and almost intentionally sinister (and whether or not that’s a red herring, well, you’ll see).

It’s the atmosphere of this one I’ve always liked, and while the mystery is okay, I don’t know if the ending is entirely satisfying, and I wish maybe a few more twists were thrown in. It’s not too hard to figure out the one behind these things, and I wish it were more of a challenge. Even so, Dementia 13 is a proto-slasher that is at least worth one look, if for no other reason, to see how far slashers have come in the years following Psycho and this one.

6.5/10