Filmed in nine days and released in 1963, Francis Ford Coppola's “Dementia 13” leads us to a crucial moment in horror, during the sixties, when new authors and new trends, in different countries, gave a new breath to the genre.
Alfred Hitchcock's “Psycho” (1960) is perhaps the most iconic film when we speak of the genesis of this important transition and subsequent evolution of the horror genre, which, over the decade, branched out into distinct and pioneering looks, such as those of Mario Bava (“Black Sabbath”, 1963), Herschell Gordon Lewis (“Blood Feast”, 1963), George A. Romero (Night of the Living Dead, 1968), just to name a few. The recognition and affirmation of the genre found in its path not only authors, but also different audiences, from Georges Franju's “Eyes Without a Face” (1960) or Jack Clayton's “The Innocents” (1961), movies that explored the potentials of the gender fusing mystery and drama, to the low-budget movies, or B movies, the experiences in gore, exploitation and the slasher film, that had a great influence in the popularization of the Grindhouse.
“Dementia 13” is one of the many examples that is part of the tradition of low- budget and B films that were made to accompany and correspond to the implosion of the genre during this period. Following the then precocious formula of the slasher film, “Dementia 13” has a gallery of characters that are chased by a killer whose identity is only revealed at the end. With a simple plot, the mystery of the film hangs around a girl who drowned in the lake of her family's vast property many years before, an event that seems to be connected with the murders that begin to occur. Gathering influences that were already beginning to arise in the films of this genre since “Psycho”, and also since Michael Powell’s “Peeping Tom” (1960), “Dementia 13” conjugates iconic elements of the genre (that were taken to the extreme in the following decades), not only in terms of subjects but also in the exploration of the unlimited possibilities of the language of film and of storytelling, from framing to editing, especially when filming the journey of the murderer.
Francis Ford Coppola, credited in the film only as Francis Coppola, was not yet the accomplished director by “The Godfather” trilogy (1972-1990), “The Conversation” (1974) and “Apocalypse Now” (1979). Therefore, “Dementia 13” is an interesting film for those who wish to know the director's initial career, revealing in addition to be a curious example of this period, during which the genre was covered with such important contributions and innovations.
By Tiago Vieira da Silva | Translated by Isaura Arantes
On Leuk Jornal | Edition 4 | 24 - 25 JUN 2018