"Keeping him calm, will keep him alive."
Everything was there to turn this into a horrible and unnerving horror. How terrifying is it for someone who's helplessly caught in a life-threatening situation and knowing it's impossible to escape from. No possibility to ask someone for help. No ability to save yourself. Both because you are physically limited and there's someone who makes this impossible anyway. Films about forced imprisonment are countless. From "The seasoning house" and "Mysery" to "Room" recently. The reason of detention varies from film to film. You can't say this genre films is saturated. That's a bit exaggerated. Unfortunately the theme used in "Dementia", isn't really realistic sometimes. The fact that someone suffers from dementia and is trapped in his own psychological consciousness, is scarier than what is shown here.
Especially the acting of Gene Jones catches the eye. In a brilliant way he shows the various characteristics of George. On the one hand a surly man who carries a heavy burden of his past. The unbearable memories of his captivity where he was subjected to inhuman tortures. After he returned this experience was the basis for his alcohol problem, which resulted in domestic violence and terror. On the other hand, we see the chastened former alcoholic, who tries to clear things up and rectify what he has done wrong in the past. There are timid attempts to restore the broken family band with his son Jerry (Peter Cilella) and seeks a rapprochement as the father he wasn't. Also, he finally gets to know his granddaughter Shelby (Hassie Harrison), who knows nothing about her grandfather's past. Jones shows George's range of moods brilliantly. One moment we see an unruly wiseacre who's waving around with a shotgun. The next moment he reacts very aggressively because he doesn't recognize his granddaughter. But the moments George looks helpless and vulnerable, made the biggest impression.
But this is by far the most positive thing I could say about "Dementia". There is indeed a tense atmosphere at times but it's never really creepy or eerie so to speak. Michelle (Kristina Klebe) has a kind of schizophrenic personality and reacts fairly hysterical, but the predictability of the story undermines this a little bit. And there are also some facts that seem pretty stupid. The way Michelle is appointed, is completely ridiculous. I would never give a total stranger the task to take care of my father, even if I don't care much about him anymore due to his behavior in the past, without asking some information about this person. A simple inquiry at the hospital where she works, was enough. And when that person addresses me in a rude and aggressive way, I'd sack her promptly. Obviously George's past and the diagnosis of dementia counts against him.
The makers succeeded in putting the film on the screen in a solid way, by using for example the fuzzy images as a suggestion of George's mental state and the eerie flashbacks. This combined with the excellent acting, made sure it remained a fascinating film all in all. The only flaw here, is the fact that you can guess the outcome in about 30 minutes. Thus there's no need for guessing anymore. Or George's mental state really deteriorates and he could become a danger to his environment or Michelle has other sinister plans concerning this elderly man. Take your pick.
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