Given its gimmicky genesis, Dementia Part II surprises as a bit of legitimate, over-the-top fun.
At only 66 minutes — and that includes the opening credits being repeated at film’s end — the horror sequel Dementia Part II barely qualifies as a feature-length movie. The origins behind this specific endeavor, however, are rather fascinating: in 2017, a horror and sci-fi film festival entitled Cinepocalypse kicked off its inaugural run in Chicago by challenging filmmaker Mike Testin and the producers at BoulderLight Pictures to conceive, finance, shoot, and finish a feature film, script-to-screen, in only five weeks. Testin accepted the seemingly impossible task and, along with co-director Matt Mercer, delivered an in-name-only sequel to Testin’s 2015 feature Dementia. Now, the two films have virtually nothing in common, save for a protagonist afflicted by the titular degenerative disease. Whereas the original was more of slow-burn mystery-thriller blessed with a bonkers final twist, Dementia Part II is a tongue-in-cheek horror comedy that owes more to the likes of Dead-Alive and Shaun of the Dead in terms of delivering one over-the-top gross-out comedic bit after another, the screen awash in vomit, gooey drool, and all sorts of assorted viscera. So, given that context, it’s a bit of a shock that anything even remotely watchable came from such a gimmicky dare; that the resultant film is actually kind of good is something closer to miraculous.
The setup is appropriately simplistic: recent parolee Wendell (Mercer) is sent out on a random handyman assignment and comes across a dementia-addled homeowner named Suzanne (Suzanne Voss) whose increasingly bizarre behavior seems extreme even when allowing for her condition. It doesn’t take long for Wendell to figure out his life may be in danger, but getting out of Suzanne’s house is easier said than done, and that’s even before dusk falls. It has to be noted from the top that Dementia Part II would be nothing without the game performances of Mercer and Voss, who fully commit to the batshit material with the fervor of Laurence Olivier. Mercer revels in the competing feelings of intrigue, fear, disgust, and bewilderment that overwhelm poor Wendell, resulting in a perfectly pitched comedic performance that serves to anchor the film’s more ludicrous sections — of which there are many. Voss, meanwhile, chews up the scenery (quite literally), delivering what can suitably be called a tour-de-force performance, even brave, which is certainly not what anyone will expect walking into Dementia Part II. Testin and Mercer don’t quite stick the landing, teasing a Home Alone-style ass-whooping, but they instead resort to a shotgun because, well, see above. Filmed in legitimately gorgeous black-and-white and featuring opening credits that ape the Friday the 13th sequel — because sure, why not — Dementia Part II is the equivalent to passing gas in the wind, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun while it lasts.
Published as part of Before We Vanish | May 2021.