“Dementia” has the key ingredients of a compelling psychological horror film. It is set in picturesque Batanes, which can look eerie if rendered into film properly. The film also boosts an ensemble cast consisting of new and veteran actors, and majority of the supporting actors gave good performances, notably Bing Loyzaga and Jasmine Curtis. Most importantly, for its lead, the film has Nora Aunor, who unquestionably can register complex emotions on film with minimal dialogues.
Director Percival Intalan used the turbulent waves and odd rock formations of Batanes to create a ghostly atmosphere. Mountains that are shaped like a silhouette of a supine woman were present and these natural shapes add to the overall effect of the movie .
Aunor gave a deft performance playing Mara, a woman suffering from dementia, but her character is not completely fleshed out. Similar to Joel Lamangan's "Hustisya," Aunor is burdened by a thin script so she has to make do with trite lines spoken in between her quite moments. Fortunately, Intalan was smart enough to focus the camera on Aunor near the climax of the film. The long close-up of Aunor's heartrending recollection was indeed necessary, and perhaps the redeeming feature of the film.Most of what we should know about Mara is revealed in the epilogue. Her brief scene in the hospital when her illness has not completely taken over provided a glimpse of Mara's real character. With just one line, we discover her regard towards her relatives, specifically her cousin. Her silent response coupled with a stern stare at her doctor also sums up Mara’s true nature. Perhaps Mara is not completely innocent.
In the beginning of the film, two questions stayed in my mind. “Was the film about dementia or a ghost? On the other hand, was the ghost a sign of her worsening dementia? The answer is irrelevant because the film chose to stick to a simple haunting ghost story. “Dementia” could have been like Alejandro Amenábar’s “The Others,” but it ended up like a Japanese or Thai horror film.
Still, “Dementia” is worth watching because it is interesting, specifically its ambivalent ending. In addition, we need to encourage new breed of directors. The film has the same flaws as any film by a first-time director but it has enough merits for horror fans to see.
Finally, the big question: “Did Mara do it, or not?” You have to watch to find out.