Synopsis: When an ex-con takes a job as a handyman for an unstable elderly woman to avoid a parole violation, it becomes a choice he may regret.
Stars: Matt Mercer, Suzanne Voss, Najarra Townsend, Graham Skipper, Stacy Snyder, Teya Wolvington
Director: Matt Mercer & Mike Testin
Running Length: 67 minutes
TMMM Score: (2/10)
Review: Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Wise words and something to keep in mind while watching Dementia Part II, an icky no-budget movie that sprung to life as a challenge made by a film festival to two writer/directors. Could they produce a film from scratch in five weeks? If they could, the festival would show whatever they had put together, saving a choice spot for them in their programming. The creative energy could (and should) have been through the roof on this but instead we have yet another zombie horror/comedy that is a sequel in name only to a 2015 film which has a few cast and crew crossovers. Ever the completist, I made the effort to watch that earlier movie first and frankly found it to also be fairly lousy but far more competently made than this black and white turkey.
It didn’t start out so bad, I’ll give it that. Referencing several notable horror films off the bat was a nice touch and that it did it with such clear nods made me feel relaxed enough to hope the filmmakers would temper their sense of humor with some ghoulish frights. Unfortunately, this good will vanished fast pretty much the moment the credits ended and ex-con Wendell Miska (Matt Mercer) enters the scene. Struggling to make ends meet because he can’t keep a job, his no BS probation officer (Graham Skipper, amateurish and obnoxious, also an early candidate for worst abuser of the “F” word in film of 2021) is breathing down his neck to get one or face more jail time.
A maintenance gig for an old lady seems to be easy money and Wendell eagerly accepts, but upon arriving and meeting the confused Suzanne Goldblum (Suzanne Voss, The Lords of Salem) he realizes that something isn’t quite right. Also, he’s creeped out by the picture of her late husband staring at him from the fireplace mantle (don’t worry Wendell, he gives us the skeevie weevies too!) and the way she talks about him like he’s still around. As she floats in and out of lucidity, stopping only to vomit or secrete some vile substance that somehow winds up in, on, or around Wendell’s mouth, the hapless plumber continues to stick around when he learns there may be money from Suzanne’s late husband stashed around the house. If he can stay long enough to find out where it is, all his problems should be over, right? Right? If only Suzanne didn’t have that nasty bite…and wasn’t slowly turning into a beast hungry for blood…
Returning as co-director, co-writer, and cinematographer, Mike Testin shares head honcho duty with star Mercer and the challenge they delivered on appears to be a film that was meant to be shown at a closing night cast party and not for paying audiences. Barely an hour long, you can hardly even call it a feature film at all…it’s more of a chapter in a longer anthology waiting for more pieces of the puzzle. It constantly is trying to find out a way to keep Wendell in the house, unsuccessfully convincing us he’d delaying exiting the lady regurgitating bile for as long as he does. Even the appearance of a mystery woman (value-add Najarra Townsend, The Stylist) claiming to be a relative of Suzanne doesn’t spice things up in the least. Maybe it’s because everyone in the film is just sort of awful in one way or another, either their character is good but their acting is lousy or they are stuck with a poorly written part but have the acting chops to make something of it.
Look, give me a no-frills indie that makes the most out of their limitations. Plenty of great movies have been made with bad budgets and I’m tired of films like Dementia Part II looking so cheap and ugly and then letting the production costs bear the brunt of the criticism. Looking over the credits for both directors you can see they have experience in this genre – their combined experience should have made this a slam dunk. The only think clever or interesting about the movie is the poster. Why they even made it a sequel is beyond me, even the clinical definition for Dementia Part II (or the second stage) doesn’t line up. The character Voss played in the first film was so minor (a nurse) that I’m wondering why they couldn’t just carry it over here. It’s just sadly a total wash and not recommended in any way, especially disappointing seeing that the opening hinted there were some cunning cooks in this gory kitchen.