“Dementer” is a horror tale of demonic possession and a cult survivor’s struggles to prevent it.
But that simple narrative is taken somewhere unique by filmmaker Chad Crawford Kinkle. This low budget Satanic story is set in the world of special needs caregiving. Blending a few actors with a largely nonprofessional cast, keeping everything cryptic and telling his story with sound effects and montage — a perfectly coherent blur of edits — Kinkle has conjured up a minimalist tale almost guaranteed to give you the creeps.
Katie (Katie Groshong) is 40ish and job hunting. What she owns is still stuffed into her car when she lands a job with Skills Development Services, a company that provides in-house and in-group-home care to special needs adults in a rural Tennessee county. Katie is personable, outgoing with the clients.
But she’s hearing voices. We hear them too, hissed and whispered, sometimes speaking backwards, sometimes as plain as day.
“For a life is given, a devil is born!”
She has flashbacks, sees blood and tries not to let whatever she’s been through slip out in front of her supervisor (Brandy Edmiston) or favorite client, Stephanie (Stephanie Kinkle, the director’s sister).
But we’ve seen the scars on her back, rituals she witnessed by bonfire light. We catch her in weeping, quivering fear when she knows nobody else can see.
And when Stephanie gets sick, Katie figures it’s all connected to what she knows, what she went through and what she represents.
“I’m NOT going to let them get you, too!”
Writer-director Kinkle immerses us in a documentary-real milieu and cast — nurses, patients — and layers in the horror via flashbacks and recurring images. A blood-covered floor, a nude, bloodied woman fleeing into the darkness, bonfire rituals and incantations, instructions and warnings from that voice.
The butcher she visits to collect a cow’s heart (a talisman) doesn’t blink an eye as he takes us into the freezer in a slaughterhouse of horrors.
The film is cheap-looking as a matter of style — whiteboard scrawled opening credits, grainy night vision footage, handheld camera chases and close-ups of a Satanic symbol, painted in blood or forged in steel.
And it’s mysterious. There’s no more to the “story” than that summary above — a woman with a whole collection of dreamcatchers hanging from her rear-view mirror, the echoey incantations in her head, a dark past and a fraught present.
I wanted a little more out of the script, some further explanation, at least a few of the loose ends wrapped up. But what’s here is a near triumph of mood and tone over “story,” and certainly creepy enough to recommend.
MPA Rating: unrated, violence, nudity
Cast: Katie Groshong, Brandy Edmiston, Stephanie Kinkle and Larry Fessenden
Credits: Scripted and directed by Chad Crawford Kinkle. A Dark Star release (March 2).
Running time: 1:20