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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)