Dementia 13 (1963)

An early horror B-movie by Coppola, produced by Roger Corman, with effective mood-setting but an undercooked story.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Review #2,105

Dir. Francis Ford Coppola
1963 | USA | Drama/Horror | 75 mins | 1.66:1 | English
Not rated – likely to be PG13

Cast: William Campbell, Luana Anders, Bart Patton
Plot: Shocked by the death of her spouse, a scheming widow hatches a bold plan to get her hands on the inheritance, unaware that she is targeted by an axe-wielding murderer who lurks in the family’s estate.
Awards: –
Distributor: MGM

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate

Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream

Viewed: MUBI
Spoilers: No

It is always interesting to see how great filmmakers first started.  In the case of Francis Ford Coppola, his first feature, Dementia 13, is best ignored unless you are a completist or a curious horror-phile. 

Produced by the legendary Roger Corman (who turns 95 this year), the film is a straightforward tale about a well-to-do family haunted by the death of one of their children who drowned in a nearby pond nearly a decade ago. 

Unfazed by the dark history of the family, a widow hatches a plan to obtain an inheritance from the matriarch, who lives in a castle in Ireland. 

As the main family members gather for a few days to commemorate the death anniversary, another series of events seems to take a life of its own—one that involves missing people and a mysterious axe-wielding killer on the loose. 

“Castle Haloran is a bit perplexing, a very strange place really, old and musty, the kind of place you’d expect a ghost to like to wander around in.”

Partly shot at the Howth Castle, Dementia 13 does set the mood quite effectively from the get-go, but its undercooked story is a problem. 

Part of the problem is that the key characters aren’t given enough time to be properly developed—as such, they operate on the level of plotting rather than being embedded deep within the narrative. This is of course a longstanding issue for many average-to-bad movies. 

That being said, Dementia 13 has to be appreciated for what it is—a low-budget B-side genre movie that any young filmmaker needing a feature or two under his or her belt would be excited to try their hands on. 

Grade: C+



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