Released in 2015, Dementia was director Mike Testin’s twisty horror debut: a dark psychological slow-burn of paranoia and fractured memories, following an elderly veteran who’s tormented by his nightmarish nurse. If you’ve never seen Dementia, then you’re in luck because Dementia Part II isn’t a sequel; it’s barely a sequel in name only. Beyond the returning director and actors Suzanne Voss and Graham Skipper (in different roles), the “Part II” moniker is more of a joking wink, quite fitting the film’s horror-comedy tone and unusual origins.

Back in 2018, there was a challenge, a dare among friends: produce a feature by the end of Cinepocalypse Film Festival, and it’ll premiere in the closing midnight slot. A month later, Matt Mercer and Mike Testin‘s Dementia Part II was playing to the late-night crowd. Within that context, Dementia Part II is an impressive adrenaline-shot of a film, buzzing with an off-kilter gross-out absurdity that’ll no doubt evoke all manner of reactions from midnight crowds.

The premise is horror-comedy simplicity; director Matt Mercer steps into the lead role as ex-con handyman Wendell, arriving at an unassuming suburban home for a routine plumbing gig. He’s given an aloof welcome by widowed homeowner Suzanne Goldblum, and soon an in-&-out change of pipes becomes a comedy of odd personality and $100 tips. Just ignore the rotting raccoon clogging the garbage disposal.

The ever-shifting dynamic between Mercer and actress Suzanne Voss is a batty, bizarre two-hander, as Voss amplifies her widow’s mercurial mania. Her unpredictable presence is a delight, shifting from doting to delirious to confused to carnivorous with a relish that permeates the entire film. Mercer is game for it all, playing off the shifting personalities and memories with deadpan frustration. Much of Dementia Part II hinges on that bizarre interplay, snowballing through mishaps and askew reveals: handyman tools accidentally left behind, a room full of Y2K-prep assault rifles, a mention that something happens to Ms. Goldblum at dusk…

Dementia Part II’s quirky comedy takes an increasingly gross turn as directors Mercer and Testin revel in gushes of bodily fluids, rendered viscous black through the film’s monochrome style. The interplay of misunderstandings and memories becomes gory slapstick and frenetic nightmare sequences, while the calm camerawork intensifies to a frantic pitch reminiscent of Sam Raimi or Peter Jackson’s early films. A resuscitation attempt dripping with bloody vomit goo is just the tip of the film’s gross-out spectacle.

As a gory crescendo of a horror-comedy that wants its midnight crowds squirming and gasping, Dementia Part II is an impressive feat well deserving its festival praise. As a 66-minute genre piece divorced from that energy and triumphant victory lap, Dementia Part II does lose some – arguably much of – its luster. The weird paranoia shifts to schemes and asshole victims once Najarra Townsend (Contracted) and Graham Skipper (VFW, Bliss) enter the picture as Suzanne’s daughter Sheila and parole officer Reggie respectively. The cycle of awkward interactions, addled memory, handyman frustration, and trippy visions becomes repetitive despite being carried by charming performances. At times, the dare requirement of reaching feature length comes across as a weight forcing the story to stretch out its premise to the limit.

When Dementia Part II attempts to link its bonkers moments and imagery through plot and conversations, its wild energy fades and the seams become increasingly glaring. But when Dementia Part II is indulging in its askew characters, its seat-squirming viscera and gross visuals, this is a midnight-movie blast.

Summary
Barely a sequel in name only, the “Part II” moniker in Dementia, Part II is more of a joking wink fitting the film’s horror-comedy tone and unusual origins.
50 %
Messy mayhem
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