If Mike Testin”s Dementia was a serious, slow-burning domestic thriller in which an ageing, demented Vietnam War hero is revisited by his questionable past in the form of a vindictive bunny-boiling home carer, then Dementia Part II – co-directed by Testin and its star Matt Mercer – is the exact opposite. Leaving aside a few callbacks to the original – the opening production logo for BoulderLight Pictures subtly evoking Dementia‘s POV jungle flashbacks, the recasting of Graham Skipper, a scene implying the difficulties of tea-making for the demented – this putative sequel is different in every way: a short-and-sweet genre-blurring gross-out, freakout all-out comedy, that switches the original’s genders while utterly lowering the tone.
Paroled ex-con Wendell Miska (Mercer) – his surname an homage to genre producer and Bloody Disgusting co-founder Brad Miska – gets more than he bargains for as he takes a home maintenance job to fix the ‘clogged pipe’ of elderly Suzanne Goldblum (Suzanne Voss), and finds himself increasingly entrapped in the crazy old coot’s demented routines. The monochrome presentation (apart from the occasional splash of red) and David Labovitch’s Hermann-esque score serve as a warning that we are in the territory of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, and it is clear from very early on that all is not right with sweet old sexed-up widow and her home full of assault rifles. Yet there are other influences here to confound our expectations of what is coming: ‘the handyman and the housewife’, as Wendell will realise to his increasing horror, is an erotic scenario all too recognisable from pornography; an early glimpse of George A. Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead on Wendell’s television hints at a different generic direction that might eventually be taken; the rapid editing and icky bodily fluids of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead series and Drag Me To Hell can be felt throughout; and even Jordan Rubin’s Zombeavers gets a look-in.
Dementia Part II was made as part of a challenge issued by Chicago’s Cinepocalypse festival to BoulderLight producers JD Lifhshitz and Raphael Margules to take a film from pre-production to world première within a month. The results are a model of what can be done with little time or budget but plenty of madcap creativity. Here, amidst Canadian iconography (Suzanne’s late husband Harold was a patriotic mountie) and references to the rapid field-dressing of badgers, it quickly becomes clear that anything goes – and a trip sequence at the film’s centre captures the viewer’s as much as Wendell’s sense of hallucinatory disorientation. As Wendell is joined by his parole officer Reggie Bilford (Skipper) and Suzanne’s ‘daughter’ (Najarra Townsend), the film settles into a more familiar genre. The ultimate horror here, though, is our real but rarely acknowledged discomfort with the elderly, making Dementia Part II join the ranks of Don Coscarelli’s Bubba Ho-Tep, Keith Wright’s Harold’s Going Stiff and Adrián García Bogliano’s Late Phases as a genre film whose real source of anxiety is senescence itself, with all of the inexorable, creeping mortality which that implies. Getting there, though, is a bloody barrel of laughs.
Dementia Part II was seen and reviewed at Arrow Video FrightFest 2018.