Film Frview: DEMENTIA
By Eric T. Cabahug
“Dementia is that rare Filipino horror drama that packs a solid emotional wallop. You won’t forget it soon after leaving the theater. A lot of it has to do with debuting filmmaker Perci Intalan’s mostly firm grip on his material and his relatively sophisticated approach in presenting it.”
“Dementia” is that rare Filipino horror drama that packs a solid emotional wallop. You won’t forget it soon after leaving the theater.
A lot of it has to do with debuting filmmaker Perci Intalan’s mostly firm grip on his material and his relatively sophisticated approach in presenting it. The former TV5 executive does not reinvent the horror wheel by any means. Rather he spins it very deftly and very efficiently all around.
So that when the all-too familiar scares, or scare tactics, come, and there are plenty (candles blowing out by themselves, doors shutting on their own, ghosts appearing from behind, ghosts coming at people very deliberately, menacingly), each serves its purpose of providing genuine jolts.
But jolts alone do not an effective horror movie make. Environment and atmosphere are the real keys. And here is where Intalan’s bigger achievement lies.
With excellent work by his cinematographer, production designer, and musical scorer, he was able to provide the kind of space of building mystery and escalating dread that the tale his writers gave him required.
This is fully captured in the main friction that drives and ignites the movie — its vision of Batanes, where the story is set, as a place of terrifying wintry beauty and the fiery psychological wounds that consume the heart and mind of the story’s central character.
That would be Mara, an elderly woman grappling with an early onset of dementia that leaves her unable to remember much. But when a (literal and figurative) ghost from her traumatic distant past comes to haunt her and the only living family she has, the memories come crashing violently like strong waves hitting the jagged rocks along Batanes’ seaside cliffs.
Nora Aunor totally matches the swirling forces of nature on display throughout the movie with a dervish of a performance that involves very little spoken dialogue.
It’s mostly ferociously internal until the devastating climax where, still wordless, her face erupts into a panorama of heartbreak, anguish, sorrow, guilt, regret, terror, and, finally, resignation and surrender. It’s unforgettable.
The movie is far from perfect and the epilogue, which either affirms the story’s vision or turns it on its head, may be too ambiguous for its own good. No matter. “Dementia,” anchored by another genius turn from Aunor under Intalan’s surefooted, confident direction, will stay with you.