I believe that I’m in the majority when I state that cults are never a good thing. Examples that would provide strength to my statement would include the Manson “family”, Heaven’s Gate, Aleph, and Jonestown that, when left unchecked, can be a danger to themselves and others. Many people would declare that we are still in a cult environment even though the leader is currently pent up in Palm Beach. Though many of these cults have dematerialized while others have the probability of fading away, it is difficult for a member to become “deprogrammed” from a cult mindset. No matter how long or far you try to escape from a sect, their teachings are never far behind.
Dementer, produced by Smithland Films and distributed by Dark Star Pictures, provides a pseudo-cinema verité, satanic psych-out hybrid style flick that consists of a woman trying to escape from a fiendish cult, but her past comes back full throttle and takes her mind for a malevolent ride.
Katie (Katie Groshong) lands a job at a special needs facility for adults. She is kind, hard-working and helpful but something within her head haunts her. Through a series of lurid flashbacks, we come to the realization that Katie participated in a strange backcountry cult that she was initiated into and then escaped from. The mental trauma from the cult’s teachings affects Katie’s demeanor as a caregiver as she engages in several bizarre rituals in an effort to save Stephanie (Stephanie Kinkle) from the clutches of Satan.
Written, directed, and edited by Chad Crawford Kinkle, Dementer is a terrific companion piece to his previous feature film Jugface (2013). Some of the film’s style reminds me of a fictious documentary entitled Gummo (1997) by Harmony Korine where Dementer mirrors this approach in many ways, especially in the facility and home scenes. Toss in some “bad trip” satanic spice such as Rob Zombie’s The Lords of Salem (2012), and you have an inkling of Dementer’s characteristics.
Despite these influences, Mr. Kinkle creates his own unique vision with a very unique and intriguing story that is strengthened with a dark and foreboding atmosphere as the devil resides within a female caretaker who is thrown into a contained arena of people with special needs that is located in a desolated rural town.
Katie Groshong is exceptional as Katie as she shows off her wonderful acting range when she handles a complex character who is caring when lucid but, due to her brainwashing by a demonic cult, places her in an occasional trace-like state culminating in bizarre and disturbing rituals. Larry Fessenden is wonderfully creepy as the cult-leader Larry whose hearty charisma and heavy words which inhabit and bend Katie’s mind to his dark will is a disturbing delight.
If you like your satanism that resides in the strip malls of small-town Americana with all the after-effects of a bad drug trip, then buckle up for this one. Dementer is savage, wild, and wonderful.
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