Tag Archives: 2018

CAPSULE: DEMENTIA: PART II (2018)

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DIRECTED BY: Matt Mercer, Mike Testin

FEATURING: Matt Mercer, Suzanne Voss

PLOT: Ex-felon Wendell, now a handyman, has increasingly unpleasant encounters with a seemingly nice old woman.

COMMENTS: It may be saying something that your female lead’s start in movies was Howard the Duck. It may be saying something; I bring up this factoid for two reasons. First, there is the “Why did they make this?” question that flitted through my mind throughout the viewing. Second, this review is in desperate need of fleshing out, and bringing up Suzanne Voss’ cinematic history provided a couple dozen words for the introduction. Now, I am done with the introduction.

Hello, again! Here is the plot for you: over the course of an hour, we come to know Wendell (Matt Mercer). From some paperwork the camera lingers over during our first encounter with our reluctant hero while passed out on a couch, we learn that he’s out on parole. That circumstance is reinforced by telephone messages left for him, one of which is from his parole officer, the dirt-bag Reggie (performed, with quite a full-bag-of-dirt delivery, by the commendable low-budget horror mainstay, Graham Skipper). Wendell is a handyman, hired by Suzanne Goldblum (played by the aforementioned Suzanne Voss, who has now provided me a dozen or so further words for the count). She suffers memory issues, and something else.

Welcome to the third paragraph, and thank you kindly for traveling with me. I have not seen the first film in this series, but the dearth of that memory may not have hurt. With Dementia: Part II, Mercer and Testin prove two things. First, that they have the technical nous to make a movie. Good. Filmmakers are (typically) better for having that skill. Shots are nicely aligned, the black-and-white is a good choice (allowing for what I am certain was the classic use of chocolate-syrup-as-blood during the gory bits), and the hour-long runtime is nicely paced. Second, they should perhaps put in a little more effort the next time around. I grew to like Wendell, but his fate was as head-scratching (in an unpleasing way) as it was abrupt. It was as if the final sheaves of the script had been nicked on the final day of shooting.

I have no idea how this movie came to our attention. (Speaking of which, thank you for your attention as I wrap this up.) Some odd touches were there—I quite liked the rabid horned-squirrel, stuffed and on display. But if plot is to be tertiary, everything else better step up to fill the void. And oh yes: I think it may be time to generally retire the “prep for monster encounter montage”; we’ve just about run out of ways to do that compellingly. That said, there was enough Wendell charm to keep me from feeling cheated out of my three bucks and sixty-seven minutes.

Dementia: Part II was made in 2018 on a dare: to produce a movie, from conception to post-production, in a month to close the Chattanooga Film Festival. It debuted on video-on-demand and DVD this year.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“DEMENTIA PART II has received quite a bit of notice for being conceived, scripted, shot and premiere-screened in only a month… yet it’s notable for more than the circumstances behind its production… the [black and white] approach was born of expedience (saving time that would have been spent on color correction), the monochromatic look adds a weird TWILIGHT ZONE-esque mood to the proceedings, and allow Testin and Mercer to get homagistic in places…”–Michael Gingold, Rue Morgue (contemporaneous)

APOCRYPHA CANDIDATE: KEEP AN EYE OUT [AU POSTE!] (2018)

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Recommended

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: Grégoire Ludig, , Marc Fraize

PLOT: A detective interviews a man who has discovered a corpse under not-very-suspicious circumstances.

Still from Keep an Eye Out (Au Poste) (2021)

WHY IT MIGHT JOIN THE APOCRYPHA: Quentin Dupieux’s effervescently surreal policier parody recalls vintage 70s cinema. And it’s actually pretty weird.

COMMENTS: The thing that strikes me about Keep an Eye Out is that it feels dashed off—effortlessly. It clocks in at just over an hour, it’s mostly dialogue-based, and it only features two major performers and only a handful of different sets. There are no special effects to speak of, and the most expensive and complicated scene is the opening, where a man is arrested for conducting a symphony orchestra in a field. The script is filled with digressions, but still feels tight. Ludig and Poelvoorde deliver absurd lines matter-of-factly, commenting on the hole in a detective’s torso or a man eating a whole oyster (shell and all) with nothing stronger than mild curiosity. They remain completely inside this world, never suggesting that they’re in on the joke. Everything seems to come easy to this movie.

This ease and emphasis on dialogue and subtly dreamlike situations puts me (and others) in mind of late (minus the social satire). There is a pleasing flow in the way the situation starts out offbeat, and keeps growing weirder and weirder. The interrogation of poor regular guy Fugain (Ludig, who only discovered the body and is obviously innocent of any crime) begins in medias res, with detective Buron (Poelvoorde) taking a break to schedule a social engagement over the phone while the hungry witness patiently waits to conclude the business so he can get dinner. Although the interrogation is odd, with Buron fixated on insignificant details and slowly typing up Fugain’s responses up in real time, things take a turn when the inspector asks his associate, a one-eyed policeman, to take over while he goes on (another) break. This leads to a  strange accident, which I won’t spoil except to say that it (potentially, at least) ups the movie’s stakes. Buron returns and the interrogation resumes, but we now see Fugain describing events in flashbacks—flashbacks which contain time paradoxes, because characters who could not have been on the scene show up and start interacting with his memories. Buron continues to be obstinately suspicious, while missing evidence of an actual crime that’s hiding in plain sight. But despite some suspense trappings, the script’s actually quite light and witty, and only loosely tethered to its police procedural structure.

Whereas Dupieux’s subsequent film, Deerskin (2019), is an examination of masculinity and an artistic self-reflection, Keep an Eye Out suggests no deeper themes beyond the desire to make you laugh. Rather than a symphony, the movie plays like a jazz solo, with Dupieux simply riffing on whatever crazy idea comes into his mind. The only off note comes at the very end, a reality shift that—once again—recalls Buñuel, but also suggests a writer admitting he has no way to end his story. Still, as a standalone bit, this “big reveal” actually works just fine. String together enough gags like that, and you could make a pretty entertaining movie out of it, actually.

Au Poste! was completed before Deerskin, but is being released in the U.S. a year later. Suddenly prolific director Dupieux already has two more in the pipeline: Mandibles (2020), a comedy about a giant fly, and the currently-in-production Incredible but True [Incroyable mais vrai].

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“Many of these poker-faced absurdities are quite funny, and a few are so inspired that Dupieux might have done better to run with one of them, rather than serving up a smorgasbord of disconnected weirdness… This filmmaker’s madness could use just a little more method.”–Mike D’Angelo, The A.V. Club (contemporaneous)