MOVIE REVIEW: Dementer (2019)
The modern world, hey!? At least we have Arrow Video.
This particular reviewer is no young pup and has old fashioned/fangled ideas about how to view a film. Streaming has its place; binge watching is what they have sold you and you buy it, wholesale. Netflix, Amazon Prime, it’s the way of the future and you can’t stop progress. Living in the past, yet what about new ideas? What about moving forward with elements not seen on film before? What about escaping the cookie cutter mainstream of Blum pictures and the horror genre copycats of torture porn, or found footage? Horror films that get put on the big screen have to fit the mould, what is popular right now - supernatural entity films? Conjuring The Nun called Annabelle with Ouija? Part 12? That’s how to make money. How about making films that are personal, have content that means something to the creator? Does that matter? Horror used to be about an outlet for discussing controversial subjects, and showing things that people would rather not think about, or see.
Not so much a review of a film, this is more a review of an attitude, an angle of viewing. Dementer might be to your taste, or not. What you couldn’t deny, if you gave it a go, is that it would divide opinion. It could even be seen as a wakeup call. The first half is an intriguing tale where you go along with a protagonist who is herself an outsider. The 2nd half enters territory where you must question whether you want to go along with her actions, as a moral line is drawn and, to not give too much away, some will reject the notion, and eject the disc, or at least their investment in the character.
It could be seen as a film that exploits a subject, or the people who are represented. Those people are disabled, in a special needs unit, where the carers are their only protection from a world that could cause nothing but problems for them. For they are defenceless, aren’t they? To face this ‘invisible minority’ and consider their world is something many people have no interest in doing. The fear of getting old, being homeless, or having an accident, is one thing, and have been shown in the horror genre. They are things that can happen to anyone. To be born disabled is a different thing, and the only obvious horror film to enter that world was back in the 1930s, ‘Freaks’ remains one of the most controversial films, and has never been accepted.
Who would have the audacity to throw their main character into this world, more so who would feature not an actor, but a person with Down Syndrome, as the secondary character? You cannot make someone act who is natural, 24/7, with no pretence, no fakery, no mask, what you see is what you get. All representations of the ‘other’ in this context have been either angel innocence, or disassociated evil (like in Bond films, where the megalomaniac is either scarred, disfigured, or mentally ill/sociopathic).Werner Herzog was an influence, and also the Dogme 95 Danish movement, these would be former cornerstones for showing disabilities in a documentary format, but this film goes a step further, into horror conventions.
By the ending it could be seen as going down a horrific path, one a viewer would not want to follow. The ambiguity needs to be given another look, it can be taken as is, and it can be added to. You could be left with a nasty taste in your mouth; of course the protagonist is certainly not benevolent, but there might be more to it. It’s worth putting effort in, and that is the whole point. Instead of just sticking a film on, this can be dug into, re-watched and seen from a different perspective.
This is where the extras come in, and the whole subject of going deeper with a viewing experience than the stretched-out product on TV screens. Quality over quantity, or at least a focus on what you are seeing, rather than simply consuming as much as you can. From watching Dementer you can be dragged kicking and screaming into a half documentary, half occult nightmare, but with interviews about the background of how it was made...it brings a whole new level to what you have seen. Not to say the experience cannot be whole on its own feet, however the context adds so much more and can shine a completely different light on how you felt about the representation. Then the discussion between the three film directors, who are friends, talking about their experiences in the industry is illuminating. It makes you think about the way films are made, who they are made for and why artists bother making them at all. In a world where creating art of any sort is an uphill struggle, film is something that takes up years in the life of the people making it. They put their heart, sweat, and tears into the work. When you consider these facts and discover why this director decided to feature disabled characters, and his own family connections to this, you can see why he made the film.
Like it or hate it, the extra features on this disc are gold! Thought provoking, involving, funny, sad, uplifting, informative – everything you’d want from a purchase and you can only have this by buying the product. On disc. You cannot watch this material anywhere else. It’s like having friends over for a chat, it’s comforting in a cold world where your opinions are not heard, where you feel alien, an outsider. There are people like-minded out there, and you can bring them into your front room. Arrow Video do this, against the grain of how viewing films is done now. They put their effort into what they love, and they have to trust they’re in an audience for what they are doing. They have one here, and there must be others. People who want more than just a cheap meal that goes straight through them; they want a four-course nosh-up that satisfies, fills the soul, and makes them feel content. If you like horror films, support the ones making them, the independents who only survive because you are buying what they are selling. If you just want Conjuring part 24, ignore this and carry on.
Dementer is out now via Arrow Video