Dementer (2020)

Dementer has an intriguing premise: what if someone tried to escape a backwoods cult? How would they get past all the abuse? And how would they try to earn a living?

After fleeing one of those aforementioned religious groups, Katie (Katie Groshong), sleeps in her car and tries to make a living by working in a home for special needs adults. Her days are still filled with waking nightmares, remembering ritualistic attacks where she was whipped and beaten while a voice continually reminded her that “The Devils listen to the sound of the innocent.”

She’s convinced that those devils have targeted Stephanie (director Chad Crawford Kinkle’s real-life sister, also named Stephanie), who is living with Down’s Syndrome. Despite a series of rituals and even a sacrificed cat, Katie can’t keep the feeling that evil and sickness want to claim this innocent soul for their own.

Larry Fessenden, whose career has seen him act, direct (Wendigo) and produce (House of the Devil) plays a man who still has a hold on our protagonist. Is she able to see reality in the right light? Is she meant to be the child’s protector? Is she even qualified to do so?

In a world where representation is often discussed and not always acted on, this is a brave movie. Director Chad Crawford Kinkle has built the film around his sister Stephanie, saying that he has “gone to great lengths to create a bold genre film that embraces and properly represents the developmentally disabled, while still being both thrilling and disturbing. The result is a singular, deeply personal independent feature unlike any before it.”

In fact, it had been in the works a long time. Kinkle said, A year ago, my mother mentioned that she had a dream that I made a film with my sister Stephanie, who has Down Syndrome. I don’t think that I told her, but for a few years now I’ve had the idea of building a horror film around my sister.”

As for what he made, he sees it as more than just another movie: “The resulting film is something that I’ve never seen before. While certainly a horror film, it needed another description like; experimental, abstract, dream-like, nightmarish or even art house.  What seemed best is that it is more of a dark poem, since much of the script was written on intuition and not traditional story logic.”

There’s a lot of thought that went into filming this as well, as it has a look and feel, unlike so many recently released genre films that just seem to point and shoot the camera. The opening moments, which juxtapose children’s drawings with moments of sheer terror and the dreamy world of the special needs home are jarring.

I’m looking forward to what everyone involved in this film does next.

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