The Movie Waffler First Look Review - DEMENTER | The Movie Waffler

First Look Review - DEMENTER

dementer review
A care centre worker fears a patient is being targeted by the cult she fled.

Review by Sue Finn

Directed by: Chad Crawford Kinkle

Starring: Katie Groshong, Stephanie Kinkle, Larry Fessenden, Brandy Edmiston, Eller Hall

dementer poster

Fresh cult escapee Katie is starting a new job as a caregiver at a home for developmentally disabled adults (including a character played by the director's own sister).

She takes to it like a duck to water but is tormented by the de rigueur bloody hallucinations and intrusive thoughts that horror protagonists often suffer. We are introduced to the residents, learning their routines and the minutiae involved in their care. We go on excursions with them and watch them paint pictures for Katie. All of this is observed with the relaxed ease of an assured filmmaker who is passionate about his subject matter, and it's here that the movie keeps its heart.

dementer review

After spending a night shift with Stephanie (Stephanie Kinkle) and her two housemates, Katie starts to believe that Stephanie is somehow at risk from the demons the cult worshipped; and as Stephanie gets sicker with a mystery illness, it’s hard to know what’s real. How much does this have to do with the cult? And can Katie figure out how to save Stephanie?

Though slow through its first half, I didn’t mind that, and I appreciated the choice to use actors with real disabilities, though not enough was made of their individuality and the screenplay really just scratches the surface of who they are. Katie’s character is also lacking in clarity with her backstory; a lot more could have been done there. The acting itself is commendable across the board with Katie Groshong never less than believe in the lead role.

dementer review

I was intrigued until the 50 minute mark when Katie visits an animal shelter after saying she wants a blood sacrifice and then does something so unforgivable and abhorrent that the narrative doesn’t recover from it and I was no longer on-board with this film.

There has been much written about this - audiences do not want to see animal deaths on film and they certainly don’t feel charitable or empathetic towards a character who wantonly kills an animal, particularly a pet with a name. Is there anything more sympathetic than a shelter animal that needs a home? Not by my reckoning, so to have your main character kill one and still expect an audience to care about her and be invested in your movie is frankly naive.

dementer review

On top of this woeful decision, the film itself is repetitive and stretched over its 80 minute runtime; the characters are all only thinly sketched with no inner life or clear motivations; and the storyline is frustratingly unclear. The finale is an ugly and overwrought cacophony of imagery and sound, with little in the way of resolution.

While I applaud the embracing of ‘representation’ in casting people with real developmental disabilities, this film and some of the choices made by writer/director Chad Crawford Kinkle made me angry; so a film with so much early promise is instead a wasted opportunity.

Such a shame.

Dementer is on US VOD now. A UK/ROI release has yet to be announced.

2021 movie reviews