By Andrew Buckner
Rating: ***** out of *****.
Dementer (2020), from writer-director Chad Crawford Kinkle, establishes an expertly crafted tone of sinister menace, most readily expressed in a perceptibly hand-drawn commencing credits segment, in its opening moments. This sense of uncomfortable, impending doom remains unbroken for every one of its eighty minutes. What also makes the masterful atmosphere that permeates the work so impressive is that it is infused with a similarly well-done air of mystery. This primarily stems from the motivations of the lead character, Katie (in a fantastic and compelling turn from Katie Groshong). It is a question that is playfully teased, with genuinely haunting bits of flashbacks which add to the enigma at hand, throughout the efficient and effective feature.
The plot revolves around Katie embarking on a job. It is one that has her taking care of individuals with special needs. She soon finds herself assisting a resident of her new occupation, Stephanie (Stephanie Kinkle). Yet, there are undertones of darkness to the kindness Katie shows Stephanie. As reoccurring memories of escaping a terrifying spectacle take hold of Katie, her increasingly unpredictable actions make this unspecified wickedness more palpable. What is worse is that they seem to be directing their control over Katie to put Stephanie in danger.
This engaging and superbly developed narrative leads to a conclusion that is as unnerving and unforgettable as the film constantly leads viewers to imagine it will be. It is a powerful punctuation point. Such is one that makes this ominous puzzle-box horror outing, filled with indelible and eye-popping imagery, evermore brilliant. This is especially when considering how sharply everything has been put together.
What I also admired was the documentary-like veneer of many of the scenes. This is especially noteworthy in the stretches where Katie is going about her daily life. For example, the instances early-on where she is being interviewed by her latest employer. This is also reflected just as noticeably when she is performing her duties in her current career. It blends beautifully with the surreal glimpses of intense fear which push us to the finale.
The screenplay from Kinkle is top-notch. Continually, his direction is slyly stylish. What is evermore worthy of appreciation is that this element is never so overdone that it takes away from the admirable foremost concentration on weaving the tale at hand. Moreover, the characters from Kinkle are sufficiently developed and organic. His dialogue is also incredibly authentic and natural sounding. These ingredients certainly help make Dementer an incredibly believable and immersive experience.
This convincing quality is also reflected in the casting. Larry Fessenden is terrific, as always, as the wicked Larry. Brandy Edmiston as Brandy and Stephanie Kinkle are also excellent in this regard. The visually and tonally appropriate cinematography from Jeff Wedding is equally astounding. The music from Sean Spillane is superb. Furthermore, the same said editing from Chad Crawford Kinkle heightens these remarkable values.
In turn, the most recent cinematic exercise from Chad Crawford Kinkle is dazzling, dark, disturbing, and confidently paced. It reminded me of The Blair Witch Project (1999). This is in the way it memorably designs an all-too real feeling of foreboding and increasing underlying suspense. The effort is a knockout. It is a wonderful accumulation of talent in front of and behind the camera. Dementer is destined to endure as one of the best pictures of the year.