Review: Dementer

Written and directed by Chad Crawford Kinkle, after fleeing a backwoods cult, a woman tries to turn her life around by taking a job in a home for special needs adults, only to discover that she must face her dark past to save a down syndrome woman. Starring: Katie Groshong, Brandy Edmiston, Larry Fessenden, Eller Hall, Scott Hodges and Stephanie Kinkle.

Initially Dementer starts out on very familiar ground, satanic cult flashes that throw back to many a horror film that has come before it. However, it quickly moves into unexpected ground, in that it scales completely back to almost documentary styled footage. It’s an unusual choice for a film such as this and does genuinely add several layers to something otherwise very similar to previous films. The care home setting provides an opportunity to add compassion, respect, diversity and kindness into the story, rare traits in films with a ritualistic theme.

The way that the story moves may represent past versus present but there’s an interesting quality to it that almost makes it seem like Katie (Katie Groshong) is existing in dual realities, each fighting to be at the forefront. The back and forth works well, slowly adding pieces to the puzzle. Its later choices are of a more mixed success and your ultimate enjoyment of the film may depend on whether you’re looking for clear answers or are happy for doors to be left wide open.

Chad Crawford Kinkle’s variety of directorial style is an interesting blend of chaotic cult flashbacks, purposely messy and intense with slow, dramatic and everyday scenes. The mix keeps things moving well, the care home scenes are easy and sweet to watch while you slowly discover the mystery of Katie’s haunted past. It may not be especially smooth or fluid in its progression but it’s the type of film that can get away with being somewhat rocky.

Groshong’s performance is a difficult one to pin down, Katie is a complex character with a traumatic past which creates both a sympathy and an enigma. It’s hard to decide how exactly she’s been influenced by her time with the cult and Groshong captures that well but it does make it difficult to connect with her character at times. The heart of the rest of this film is the actors playing its care home residents. It’s refreshing to see a cast full of diverse people, as even in 2021 it’s quite rare to see more people with disabilities than without in a film.

Dementer is a nice change of pace for cult or satanic horror films, it takes the familiar elements and adds its own unique spin. It makes a fair amount of choices that won’t work for everyone and its final moments may likely leave a number of people unsatisfied. Regardless of its divisive moments, it genuinely has something new to add to the genre which even by itself makes it worth watching.

Verdict: ✯✯ ½

Out now on Arrow Player

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