Movie Review: ‘Dementia’

When an elderly war veteran has a stroke and begins to suffer from Dementia, his estranged son and granddaughter convince him to hire a live-in nurse who, naturally, has a hidden sinister agenda. Add in a little family drama, nightmarish visions, questions of mental stability, and a few disturbing deaths and this turned out to be a rather genuine, albeit predictable, psychological thriller/horror from Mike Testin and Meredith Berg in their feature debut as director and writer, respectively.

Gene Jones (No Country for Old Men) stars as George Lockhart who seems to have a good heart that is weighed down with wartime trauma. In the scene before he collapses, George is shown shooting a shotgun to scare off some kids that are bullying another kid; to whom he then tries to offer advice. After the collapse, he begins suffering from memory loss and pretty haunting nightmares from his past, to the point that his family decides to put him in an assisted living home. That is until Michelle, a visiting nurse that “the hospital sent”, suggests a live-in nurse.

Kristina Klebe (Rescue Me, Halloween) is the nurse who really shouldn’t be trusted. Herein lies a problem with psychological thrillers, either they are formulaic and predictable or they are so far-fetched that they don’t make any sense. Dementia falls into the former category for about 98.2% of the movie. From the moment Michelle is onscreen, you’re pretty sure she is up to no good. She even says and does strange things that would normally make the people around her cautious, but the other characters just kind of glance over (like when she stabs George in the back with a “sleep aid” without his consent only minutes after his family leaves and then George just comments that it’s effective).

The disease of dementia, obviously, is at the center of the movie. I don’t know enough about it to say for sure how accurately it is portrayed, but a quick internet search makes me think they are close. The movie shows George having problems with his memory; difficulty recalling people or events. In one scene, he fails to recognize his granddaughter and gets very angry that she is in his house. Michelle is shown testing him at various times by asking him different things like the specific steps for making tea.

Along with the possibly downward spiral of George’s mind, the movie does try to play with reality a bit. For example, while George is still in the hospital, through either a nightmare or a disturbing vision, he sees a man tear off his skin with his teeth. We later learn that this man was in the war with George where he died a gruesome death. There are other scenes where you aren’t quite sure if George is awake or dreaming possibly leading some audiences to question the reality of the movie.

But, in the end, it was pretty straight-forward with only one twist that I didn’t expect. While the predictability removes some of the tension, the movie does have a good story and likeable characters/actors, including Richard Riehle (Star Trek: TNG and Transformers, among many, many others) as George’s best friend, Sam.

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