Richard LeMay’s remake of Francis Ford Coppola’s Dementia 13 Is perhaps among one of the best remakes I have seen in quite awhile.
That being said, it’s not a great movie – it’s a little too soapy for my tastes – though it does what a good remake does, which is to remain faithful to the movie that it’s based on, while at the same time breaking new ground, though doing so in a manner that undermine where it came from.
And that’s not an easy balancing act.
For instance, I recall Gus Van Sant’s shot-for-shot remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1998), a movie that to this day I can’t find a reason for existing (beyond some sort of directorial exercise).
Dementia 13 is also extremely faithful to Coppola’s movie, though updates it not only in a way that makes sense, but makes it much more enjoyable (despite being shorter by about seven minutes or so).
One way that it differs from the original is that it takes place in the United States. I don’t recall the movie identifying where in the country, but keeping it local – so to speak – means that the writers (Dan DeFilippo and Justin Smith) can remove the entire part of the story where Louise visits Ireland, which added nothing to the movie (which might not have been the case if Coppola had taken into account the natural beauty of his environs).
LeMay takes a different tact, making the landscape an important part of the story. It never becomes a character in and of itself, though it definitely plays a role.
The movie also adds some needed diversity, casting Louise as a Latina (Ava Isabelle) though it also comes off a bit problematic because the movie posits that John Haloran (Christian Ryan) was a wife beater – a detail not part of the original movie, which is fine – what isn’t is that Louise is a gold digger and a terrible person.
Not that that makes what John did to her justified (the movie opens with Louise laid out on the floor of the Haloran ancestral home) though what it does is make one wonder if perhaps she did something that warranted a reaction from John.
The movie tries to allay this issue by having Rose Haloran (Channing Pickett) telling Louise that John had also beat his former wife.
Knowing that – and if Louise weren’t a terrible person – would make John seem like the monster that he actually was, as opposed to appearing almost sympathetic because we soon learn that Louise is not only attempting to rob the Halorans’ blind, but kill them as well.
The original movie is also a bit light on the body count. There are only two deaths, while in LeMay’s remake there are about six, and a few were done pretty interestingly.
The best change is that this version of Dementia 13 is a supernatural horror movie, while the original was a photo-slasher movie (And speaking of ‘photo-slasher,’ Coppola’s movie was barely that, while from virtually the first frame Richard LeMay’s movie buys all in on the supernatural).
In fact, it’s worth mentioning that I didn’t recall the name of virtually anyone from the original movie, despite those names being pretty ordinary. This was because Coppola’s movie is fairly bland, while LeMay’s remake is more engaging, though as I mentioned earlier, a bit soapier than I would have preferred.