Rating: D+/ First of all, I’d just like to say that I really enjoy Gene Jones as an actor, and I hope he goes on to do a lot more movies; most of which will hopefully be better than this one. Dementia has a great premise, benefits from the presence of Jones, and initially seems like it’s going to be a fun ride; that is, until it takes a turn into unintentionally humorous territory. Most of the ridiculousness on display here is due to the villain, who comes off as wwwaayy over the top and takes herself much too seriously for such a silly, overacted character.
George (Gene Jones) is an elderly war hero whose son (Peter Cilella) doesn’t want much to do with him, for reasons that are not immediately clear. After being diagnosed with Dementia, George is saddled with a home care nurse named Michelle (Kristina Klebe) with absolutely no credentials who came out of literally no where. Despite these perfectly good reasons not to trust Michelle, George’s son immediately hires her because, why not? Well, as it turns out, Michelle’s cuckoo for cocoa puffs, and has an ax to grind with the old man. Thus begins Michelle’s gaslighting of the very elderly, infirm George, while George’s granddaughter (Hassie Harrison) decides to play Nancy Drew and check up on Michelle’s background, which her father conveniently neglected to do.
Dementia doesn’t work for a lot of reasons; to begin with, Michelle’s character could have been fascinating if her intentions were unraveled layer by layer, revealing the psychopath hiding behind the veneer of compassion. Instead, Michelle is immediately established as out to lunch, literally leaping out and stabbing George in the back of the neck with a needle five minutes into us meeting her. There’s nothing caring, considerate, or even sane about this woman, when she beheads his cat, it’s just the icing on the cake. Yet it takes ages for anyone to figure out about her what we realize within minutes.
The overwrought, shrieking violin music drives the viewer to annoyance, the color palate is a bland monochromatic collection of browns and greys, and when George is revealed to not be the stand-up guy he appears to be, we are left with no one to sympathize with or root for. We certainly can’t root for Michelle, who, while she has all the reason to hate George, can not be let off the hook for killing his friend and mangling his cat. It doesn’t help that Kristina Klebe as Michelle is forced to rattle off the worst lines imaginable and isn’t convincing at all in her role. If you’re looking for scares, they’re nowhere to be found here, and if you’re looking for psychological thrills… nope, they’re nowhere to be found either.
Gene Jones was magnificent as the Jim Jones-esque villain in Ti West’s The Sacrament, which is one of the few found footage horror films I like, and he valiantly tries to single-handedly keep the movie from falling apart with his better-than-average performance. But he’s surrounded by weak co-stars and an awful script that strains credulity in the extreme and tries to inspire gasps of shock when it seems more fitting to groan with frustration and boredom. If Klebe’s character were remotely believable, Dementia might just be a passable time-killer rather than the dull slog through mediocrity that it is.
However, to be really worthwhile, it would need several script rewrites, and it’s evident that the writer and the director didn’t put nearly enough thought into this one before it hit shelves. Which is a shame, because the premise of Dementia is a fascinating psychological cat-and-mouse game that really deserved a better movie, not a limp specimen like this. I am convinced that Gene Jones will do better next time, and pick a script more befitting his talents.