Film Review: DEMENTIA
By: A Moot Point
“A rarity in Pinoy horror genre, Dementia stays away from blood & hysterics, instead, it capitalizes on the gothic setting & tension. Nora Aunor blows us away with her mesmerizing non-verbal performances, that we pardon the average plot – something that the usual nitpicking critic will tear apart if it wasn’t for Aunor’s superb acting and Intalan’s impressive direction.”
STRAIGHT TO THE POINT: A rarity in Pinoy horror genre, Dementia stays away from blood & hysterics, instead, it capitalizes on the gothic setting & tension. Nora Aunor blows us away with her mesmerizing non-verbal performances, that we pardon the average plot - something that the usual nitpicking critic will tear apart if it wasn't for Aunor's superb acting and Intalan's impressive direction.
Directed by: Percival Intalan (directorial debut)
Screenplay/Story: Renei Dimla, Jun Lana
Starring: Nora Aunor, Jasmine Curtis-Smith, Bing Loyzaga, Yul Servo, Chynna Ortaleza
It's so hard for me to take Filipino horror films seriously what with their typical borrowed Hollywood formula that fails so miserably, cheap CGI & scare tactics, and untalented actors mainly cast for their face value/celebrity status more than anything else, to cite a few reasons. I remember laughing so hard at Pagpag: Siyam na Buhay or Dalaw (at Kris Aquino, more than anything else), that my mind registers "comedy" whenever I see a Pinoy horror movie showing in the cinemas. Dementia, is something else.
Not knowing anything much about it except that it's starring Ms. Nora Aunor, it was just a stroke of luck that I found out it's already showing in theaters - just twice a day though, in the mornings. I grabbed the chance. With my mom tagging along, we waited at the entrance for the mall to open up, and stood in line patiently as senior citizens line up to avail their free movie. After getting the tickets, we hurried up excitedly and went inside Cinema 2 and had the entire theater to ourselves. You heard right. It's only me and my mom. Not one living soul can be seen anywhere. It was creepy. And when the movie started, showing a bunch of gothic scenery, I kinda missed the chaos a jam-packed theater offers.
Intalan sets the mood right with a bunch of amazing shots, showcasing the somber beauty of the island, and I was really impressed. It's like watching something of Bergman or any other black & white classics. When the camera focuses on Aunor's face - her eyes eternally glimmering, her expression reflecting a thousand emotions, I was like "Yeah. Money well-spent!" That's like 3-5 minutes into the movie. I was already content.
The plot itself is nothing new. It's been told before, maybe more intricate, maybe even better. A family caring for a relative with dementia, thrown together by circumstances finding themselves in a remote island, in a gloomy-looking ancestral home. Ghostly apparitions. Musical score perfectly-timed with the building suspense & a couple of scare shots. A malevolent ghost, that despite its resemblance of a Jabbawockeez dancer, I couldn't laugh even if I had a momentary urge to giggle, because its first appearance was so creepy I forgot about my sense of humor.
But what truly makes this film stand out is Nora Aunor. It's so rare nowadays for a horror film to rely on the actual emotions or mood because we all have gotten used to being served blood & guts, lots of screaming & hysteria that I get surprised if I see a really well-made horror movie (Roden's Kasambahay is also a good example). That's the beauty of Dementia. Intalan maximizes his lead's greatest strength - that is her ability to relay a story without opening her mouth. The most memorable scene for me involves Nora Aunor staring at the camera, so many emotions in a span of seconds or minutes, and hitting me like a laser gun straight to the heart. I shed tears.
I also commend the rest of the cast. But Jasmine Curtis-Smith surprised me the most. For a newbie, surrounded by Nora Aunor, Bing Loyzaga, Yul Servo, Chynna Ortaleza, and even Lou Veloso, she was a natural. Not teeny-bopper, not camera-conscious, no affected projections nor stilted dialogues - she was actually good. I will be watching out for her. Ortaleza, who in my opinion is such an underrated actress (and one of my favorites, since her Click days), also delivers a chilling performance as Olivia. As always, she makes the most of every character she portrays, and she always delivers. A huge part of me wishes to see her in more challenging & bigger roles.
How scary is Dementia?
If you have read my previous horror film reviews you would know that I'm a huge wimp. I cover my eyes half the time while watching ghost movies. So my gauge of how scary this film is might be vastly different than you guys. The movie doesn't bombard you with cheap scare tactics. All throughout, it winds you up into a big ball of tension, stretches you like an elastic band, ready to snap at the slightest hint of shadow/sound. There were only several really scary scenes - but they were very effective. The appeal of this as a horror film, like I've said, relies on the cast's acting, the score, the mood, and the superb photography. It's really great to see something with a hint of Korean/Japanese/Hollywood horror being applied in this film, but also retaining its native flavor - what I mean is, there were horror formulas (cliches, whatever) used, but unlike other mainstream flicks, this one felt real. It was masterfully handled by everyone, not just the director or the lead. It's like watching a world-class movie that's distinctly Filipino - it makes me proud. Dementia is not just paranormal-scary, though. It's also a psychological horror - making me realize the sad face of getting older; being a burden to relatives, losing yourself, forgetting your past. It put me in a cold, cold place.
My Rating: 4/5 - this is something worth watching. (5/5 for Aunor's subtle performance)