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'Dementia: Part II' Review: A stunt film that requires context

Matt Mercer and Mike Testin's 'Dementia: Part II' pits a handyman against a forgetful old woman who starts to get bitey—made in only a month.

Things go mad in 'Dementia: Part II.'
(Image: © Darkstar Pictures)

Our Verdict

'Dementia: Part II' is a throwback to psychological paranoia that gets icky but rarely hits any midnight-movie highs, since you can feel how this intentionally rushed production doesn't benefit what's plainly executed.

For

  • 🇨🇦 A dare film that proves challengers wrong.
  • 🇨🇦 Some nasty gross-outs.
  • 🇨🇦 Intentions win favors.

Against

  • 🇨🇦 Ideas feel unfinished.
  • 🇨🇦 The whole production feels like a joke you need to be in on.
  • 🇨🇦 Wish I could have seen it premiere against its deadline.

Listen. I'm throwing a disclaimer on my Dementia: Part II review because as a horror-loving, craft-appreciating critic, I applaud Matt Mercer and Mike Testin's undertaken accomplishment. For those out of the know, Dementia: Part II blossomed from a fool's errand. Quoting Bloody Disgusting (who co-distributes), the midnighter "came out of a dare from Chicago's Cinepocalypse Film Festival and the movie's producers JD Lifshitz and Raphael Margules." Testin and Mercer in-turn imagined a slimy and sadistic "sequel" to Testin's own Dementia, where Gene Jones portrays an elderly war veteran caught in a mental and domestic hellscape. The catch? With only a month allotted for front-to-back creation—from concept to finished project—the film had to premiere on the closing night of Cinepocalypse.

Against all odds, "Mission Accomplished" could blaze in marquee letters outside Cinepocalypes' venue like Testin and Mercer just landed their fighter jet on an aircraft carrier filled with celebrating appreciators. Unfortunately, Dementia: Part II plays a whole lot different without the aura of a completed challenge and festival excitement—releasing well after its 2018 premiere.

Mercer stars as parolee and handyman Wendell Miska (a nod to Bloody Disgusting's Brad Miska), who arrives at the house of Suzanne Goldblum (Suzanne Voss) ready to work. It's not long before Wendell realizes Suzanne's sanity flickers in-and-out like television static as she continually questions Wendell's identity. Even worse, sometimes she confuses Wendell for her deceased husband Harold, a Canadian mountie who presumably was losing his marbles due to a rabid rodent's bite. Wendell goes from cleaning clogged pipes to defending himself against Suzanne's increasingly aggressive behavioral blackouts, but he presses on because tips come as $100 bills. It's all zany and mind-messy humor, especially once waitress Sheila (Najarra Townsend) "comes home" and Wendell's sleazy parole officer Reggie (Graham Skipper) bangs on the door.

At its best, Dementia: Part II is a sloppy-squelchy midnight homage to contrasting cinematic representations of memory loss. Dementia exists as this dire down-note filled with sinister sorrow; Dementia: Part II aims to nauseate via mucusy ickiness and a gonzo viral riff. Mercer's an adaptable lead who ebbs against Suzanne's hostility and flows with situational awkwardness like hot-and-bothered advances. Najarra Townsend continues to impose and impress since the first time I wrote about her performative power in my Contracted review. There are flourishes of madness and mania as disgusting highlights emphasize saliva-sticky bodily juices that pull like melty cheese—in spurts, Testin and Mercer execute as I'm sure they wish they could for the entire film's hourish duration.

Dementia: Part II is a stunt flick representing victoriousness as an experimental test, but general viewers won't engage with such amplifying contexts. A black and white overwash hides effects discoloration but becomes this duller shade of terror that's never dangerously horrific. Narrative motivations continually promote hasty oversights because time never permits deeper meaning into why Wendell might linger around Suzanne's abode or the insanity of a rabid woman's sustained existence raising no flags prior. Graham Skipper enters stage left as a scuzzball antagonist type without much reason beyond injecting meaner spirits, while Voss hams the hell out of her saintly senior citizen routine with cannibalistic overtones. It's a bit like a fever-dream where Wendell's day keeps getting worse, and we just have to accept the ride won't stop until it's over—yet feels its speed-through restrictions in every progressing scene.

Had I attended Cinepocalypse with rowdy attendees primed to witness the unwitnessable? There is every chance atmospheric enhancements lift Dementia: Part II to another level, probably causing me to giggle as "Part II" swoops into the title card's frame to kickstart its farcical faux-continuation. As is? The daredevil within applauds what Matt Mercer and Mike Testin string together, but "string together" is the vibe. You'll get your repulsive bile noises and yucky glimpses of after-dark antics, but it's rough around its edges, sides, and surfaces. No doubt an underwhelming standoff between a meat-hungry grandmother and goodish-samaritan repairman victim that certainly brings the weirdness, yet really only succeeds under the rules in which "passable" might have been the almighty goal between competitive friends.

Dementia: Part II will be in theaters on May 21, 2021, and on VOD, Digital HD and DVD on June 1, 2021.