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Demented, The

Starz / Anchor Bay // R // July 30, 2013
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted July 16, 2013 | E-mail the Author
Six good lookin' barely-twentysomethings. A palatial, hopelessly remote Southern homestead. More than enough booze and bad decisions to go around. Sounds like the recipe for a hell of a weekend, right? Well,
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I kinda left out one key ingredient: a terrorist strike that sends a pair of missiles screaming towards this backwater stretch of Louisiana. Whatever type of chemical weapon this is, it's enough to prompt a full quarantine. These six kids can either stay holed up in Daddy's summer house and wait for some sort of rescue to swoop in, or they can make a break for it. At first, it does seem safe enough to stay put, with only a raggedy, seemingly rabid dog rattling their cages, but he's outside and they're indoors, so whatever. Turns out that little monster is just the opening act. The chemical assault has transformed the people of this sleepy little town into feral cannibals, and, propelled by pure instinct, they know just where to find their next meal...

You might not believe me at first, but stick with The Demented. There's not a zombie -- nothing on two legs, anyway -- until right at the half hour mark. Most of the movie up till that point is uninvolving table setting. The zombie dog with his CGI-enhanced slobber and Casio keyboard score fall flat. The group's mostly wooden response to the terrorist attack fails to ratchet up much in the way of tension or suspense. There's no opening scare to set the mood. I'm sure the idea is to give viewers a chance to get to know these six gut-munchees...y'know, so that there's an emotional stake when one of the demented has 'em pinned down and is snapping his infected jaws at them. It's just that too much of the cast is blandly earnest, with only Michael Welch's smarmy rich boy asshole making much of an impression, and the tin-eared dialogue and relationship drama passing for characterization...I dunno, just didn't work for me. For a while there, I didn't think anything about The Demented was going any place I wanted to be.

...and then Zombie #2 leapt through a door off the kitchen, and the movie pretty much had me from that point on. Clearly the filmmakers behind The Demented got the memo that there are 648,000 low-budget zombie epics bobbing around on Amazon, so they tried to do something at least a little different. For one, these aren't technically zombies; like the gutmunchers in Nightmare City and 28 Days Later, they're living, breathing,
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infected, and more than a little contagious. It's not just semantics either. They don't go down easily, no, but it doesn't require something as an extreme as a headshot to take one of these "zombies" out of commission. These ghouls aren't endlessly shambling around and moaning. In fact, they generally stay frozen in place. It's not the sight or scent of their prey that sets them off; it's sound. That makes The Demented feels so much more distinctive than a huge chunk of the other direct-to-video zombie flicks out there, and it opens up some impressively tense sequences where the survivors are trying to silently and claustrophobically navigate their way through the infected hordes, fractions of an inch away from being disemboweled.

The Demented does a brilliant job of keeping things moving, and I don't just mean that so much of the movie has frenzied zombies chasing after their prey at breakneck speeds. The survivors continually move from place to place, never giving things a chance to feel stale or static. The stuntmen who play these zombies are fucking fearless, violently flinging themselves across the screen. The Demented doesn't have the budget it needs, but the intensity and physicality of the stuntwork go a really, really long way to making up for that. Sometimes the complete lack of gore works in the film's favor, most memorably an offscreen kill where the horror is reflected in the expressions of one of the survivors who can't do anything but listen to a close friend be slaughtered. Other times attacks will be clumsily framed to try and mask the lack of splatter. It's a little strange because The Demented squeezes in some (okay, ill-advised) CGI, plus there's an ambitious and very effective car wreck, and...I mean, isn't that more expensive than some fake intestines and stage blood? I don't know. It's not even that I crave gore right now, but there are a couple moments where The Demented looks like it's about to unleash the red stuff, and the awkward framing or quick cutting that follow just seem skittish. Oh, and its final moments are just about indefensible, as if
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writer/director Christopher Roosevelt shot two different endings but couldn't settle on one, so he used both of 'em instead.

I mean, The Demented isn't a great movie, but it's pretty effective once it really gets underway. I absolutely appreciate that it's aiming for something different, even though its twin endings are a complete misfire and a well-intentioned early emphasis on characterization and internal strife miss the mark. Definitely good enough for a rental or a couple of clicks on your Netflix dashboard, but I can't really see myself coming back to this one again anytime soon. Worth watching but probably not worth owning, so my vote: Rent It.

Vital Stats: Written and directed by freshman filmmaker Christopher Roosevelt; stars Kayla Ewell, Richard Kohnke, Ashlee Brian, Brittney Alger, Sarah Butler, and Michael Welch.

No complaints. The Demented isn't some visual tour de force or anything, ranking right around where you'd expect a homebrew direct-to-video gutmuncher to fall, but this Blu-ray presentation is still generally where it oughtta be. The cinematography is flat and drab, sure, but at least it still results in a crisp, richly detailed image. Colors are a bit stylized: bright and colorful at the outset only to be drained away once the infection spreads. No heavy-handed noise reduction, no artificial sharpening, and very few hiccups in the compression. One quick, fraction-of-a-second pan in an opening montage was the only spot that struck me as being a little unstable. Less than dazzling, yeah, but it gets the job done.

Single layer disc. AVC encode. 1.78:1.

The Demented is dragged down by an awfully mediocre Dolby TrueHD track (16-bit; 5.1). The clarity and presence you generally expect out of a shiny, new Blu-ray disc are completely M.I.A. The intense moments that are meant to roar from every speaker are instead limp and lifeless. You can tell where a thunderous sting in the score is supposed to be, but it's mixed as meekly as everything else. Key effects like an overturning car lack any meaningful impact. The Demented coaxes a little low-frequency action out of the subwoofer but less than you'd expect, and surround usage is really
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uneven. Atmospherics and score reinforcement make up the bulk of it, but there are a handful of discrete effects to flesh out a sense of directionality. Again, though, it's not all that persistent. Dialogue sometimes struggles for placement in the mix too. Listenable but well below average.

The only other audio options are subtitles in English (SDH) and Spanish.


The Demented is a combo pack, so you do get a DVD out of the deal.

The Final Word
The Demented doesn't redefine the face of horror or whatever, but it's a decent enough fright flick that at least aims for something different. It's not memorable enough for a second pass, though, and the complete lack of extras makes this Blu-ray disc an even tougher sell. ...but yeah, I'm pretty sure I'd still stream The Demented or grab it from Blockbuster. Rent It.
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