Louise pretends that her dead husband is still alive so that she will be part of his mother's will. She goes to visit while the family is celebrating their sister Kathleen, who drowned many years ago. In an intrigue of lies, death, inheritance and ghostly apparitions, it is hard to know what is real and what isn't.
Before filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola directed some of the giant movies that he is celebrated for, he created a Hitchcock-inspired film with twists and turns around every corner, produced by Roger Corman. Seeing as "Dementia 13" is in the public domain, there have been a number of poor releases of the movie and it might not be a movie that you think about when you think of a horror classic. Sure, many public domain movies are actually trash, but there are movies like "Night of the Living Dead", "Carnival of Souls" and "The Last Man on Earth" to be found as well. "Dementia 13" fits right in there with these movies, as it's a highly entertaining horror movie from the '60s. Rapid Stream, the newly started label in Sweden, has put out a few classics and that includes this one. While a bare bone release, it is definitely respectable and worth owning.
Following a heated argument out in a small boat, John Haloran has a heart attack. His wife, Louise, does nothing to help him. Instead, she throws him in the water. Knowing that she will not get any of his mother's inheritance now, she pretends that John is still alive. Louise goes to visit the family at their castle, claiming that John is away on business. She arrives at the castle in the middle of a ceremony for their since long dead sister and daughter, Kathleen. Kathleen drowned in the castle's pond. Much like the movie that served as inspiration ("Psycho"), our beautiful lead is soon killed as well, and the family's mysteries become even greater.
The movie does get clustered with ideas and carries a few too many things at once, but most importantly - it is never boring. It's not only a fun murder mystery, it's also captivating with a beautiful black and white, gothic atmosphere. You can draw parallels to "Psycho" a few times over the course of the movie in plot, but in no way does that lessen the experience. It stands well on its own and I think it manages to raise even more curiosity than "Psycho" did, due to how many little threads there are to follow (though it is never as masterful as "Psycho"). Between Louise's lie about her husband, the legend of Kathleen, the axe murderer in the castle, and the family's secrets, there is plenty to keep you busy.
Odds are that you have either seen this movie or heard of it. If you've never seen it before then you've been missing out if you enjoy the greats of the 1960s. It's flawed but somehow still wonderful, and I enjoyed it way more now than I did as a kid. The atmosphere alone raises this movie above many contemporary, as it creates a dreamlike proto-slasher.