Two things to know before watching Dementia Part II: There is no Dementia Part I, and its tagline drops a huge spoiler. I have even blurred it out in the embedded cover shot – Dementia Part II is a movie that should be enjoyed with as little context as possible.
And Dementia Part II is a highly enjoyable dark comedy. We follow Wendell (Matt Mercer, also co-writer and co-director), a handyman and ex-con parolee who takes on a job for the elderly Suzanne (Suzanne Goldblum). Things instantly seem off. Suzanne suffers from some sort of mental deterioration – the titular dementia? – and goes back and forth on understanding who Wendell is. Generally, something is not right with her house – a photo of her daughter is covered by a cut-out of another woman (the always great Najarra Townsend), suggesting that somebody is taking advantage of Suzanne’s decaying state. And what’s with all her guns? The rat in the garbage disposal? Warning signs are abound.
The setup might sound gloomy and depressing, but Dementia Part II is anything but. Dark as the movie is, it’s also gross-out funny, and the mystery surrounding Suzanne – a woman who cites Y2K and Skynet as society’s downfall – is intriguing.
It is also an ultra-stylish film.
Rewind to the start, and you are introduced to a classy black-and-white pre-title scene that dissolves into a David Lynch-style Twin Peaks-typeset credit sequence. That then goes into a Fire Walk with Me static-TV scene that transitions into North by Northwest-style title cards. Yes, even in the first five minutes, there is a lot going on, and the Bernard Herrmann-esque music just underscores it. It all looks and sounds great: The writer/director team of Mercer and Mike Testin apparently have exquisite taste.
The acting, too, is spot on. Roughly half the movie follows Wendell and Suzanne, the latter who puts in a laudable (and frisky) performance as the confused old lady. Townsend, who arrives toward the end of the second act, is as good here as she is in the underrated The Stylist. (Underrated by me, that is, so note to self: add an addendum to that review.) Her portrayal borderlines femme fatale.
Again, to reiterate: You are better served going into Dementia Part II blindly. The twists and turns are sharp, entertaining, and gross-out fun; the execution is fully on point.
Equally admirable – and I am fully serious about this – is the length of the movie. Clocking in at sixty-seven minutes allows the film to maintain a pacing that serves the story perfectly. Why add swirl to prolong the journey to ninety minutes? It’s a ballsy and well-made choice by Mercer and Testin.
I don’t know what I expected from Dementia Part II. Not this, that’s for sure. What I got is something so thoroughly entertaining that I would recommend it to anyone who can stomach even a bit of graphic grossness. The film is that much fun. 2021 has been a good year for movies, and Dementia Part II ranks amongst the best of the lot.
And yes, I know the movie technically is a few years old. It still wasn’t released until recently, so keep your tweets to yourself.
Letterboxd summary: 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.
Ratings from around the web
|One Star Classics||5/6|