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Dementia 13

By Bret McCabe | Posted 7/20/2005

Were it not for those pesky Godfather movies, director Francis Ford Coppola could’ve been a real thriller contender. His 1974 The Conversation remains a minor milestone of understated paranoia, and this subdued 1963 chiller quickie, which was production-suckled at the teat of Roger Corman, is a step-above the average spook. Set in one of those never-unscary Irish castles, the Haloran family drifts through its days in perpetual doldrums, each member—the constantly shrill mother (Eithne Dunne), father (William Campbell), and distraught son John (Peter Read)—still living in a sad limbo over the drowning death of daughter Kathleen seven years previous. And when John suddenly collapses from a heart attack, his wife Louise (Luana Anders) tries to hide his corpse so that she’s not short-changed in the family will. Though in some instances it looks like a 1960s Corman B-lot exercise, Coppola invests his low-budget production with a tense mood that slowly becomes more and more sinister—due entirely to highly subjective shot selections that tighten the skin, a creeptastic family doctor in workhorse 1960s-’70s British character actor Patrick Magee, and some guy tooling around the grounds with an exceptionally large ax.

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