Released in the US and some overseas markets as Dementia 13, this dream-like horror film set in Ireland was written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola (his first director credit) and eerily photographed in black and white by Charles Hannawalt.
While visiting the family’s ancestral castle, John Haloran (Peter Read) goes rowing with his wife, Louise (Luana Anders), on a small lake and has a heart attack and dies. Louise throws his body overboard and keeps his death a secret, telling the family he left for New York on urgent business.
She plans to talk John’s emotionally unstable mother Lady Halora (Eithne Dunne), into re-writing her will and include her directly in it – with or without the survival of her husband.
Lady Haloran and her sons Richard (William Campbell) and Billy (Bart Patton) are still grieving over the death of the youngest daughter, Kathleen (Barbara Dowling), who drowned in the lake when she was 13. Each year, the family holds a ceremony of remembrance on the anniversary of her death.
But this year there is a killer amongst them – and Louise is the first to go, hacked to death by a looming figure with an axe.
The plot is complex and confusing at times with frequent twists, and a string of axe murders which were extremely graphic for their time.
The film was produced by Roger Corman, who was making The Young Racers at the time in Ireland. Corman permitted 22-year-old Coppola (who was assisting Corman on his film) to use the same set, crew, and actors Luana Anders, William Campbell, and Patrick Magee for this film provided he could shoot around the shooting schedule of Corman’s film.
Coppola made the film in just two weeks for $22,000.
Francis Ford Coppola