Dementia 13 (1963)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

The members of a large Irish family are systematically killed, falling one by one to the attacks of a vicious axe murderer. This low-budget horror effort is best known for its status as an early genre effort by famed director Francis Ford Coppola.

Rating: Unrated
Genre: Drama, Horror, Mystery & Suspense
Directed By:
Written By: Francis Ford Coppola, Jack Hill
In Theaters:
On DVD: Dec 22, 1998
Madacy Home Video


as Richard Holoran

as Louise Haloran

as Billy Holoran

as Justin Caleb

as Lady Haloran

as John Haloran

as John Haloran

as Arthur
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Critic Reviews for Dementia 13

All Critics (20) | Top Critics (2)

It's standard horror fare -- with one interesting effect that turned up again, 12 years later, in The Conversation.

Full Review… | December 11, 2007
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

The location (an Irish castle) is used imaginatively, the Gothic atmosphere is suitably potent, and there's a wonderfully sharp cameo from Patrick Magee as the family doctor.

Full Review… | January 26, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

There was no way to tell from the debut of Coppola, then 24, a low-budget horror flick produced by Roger Corman, that in a decade he would become the most influential director.

Full Review… | October 31, 2012

A peerless horror film of the low-budget variety, a sort of how-to guide for future filmmakers on working with a limited budget.

Full Review… | August 19, 2011

Like [Coppola's] later Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992), it's an intriguing example of style over substance.

Full Review… | May 13, 2011
Combustible Celluloid

One of the many low budget shockers produced in the wake of Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho", "Dementia 13" is a surprisingly effective knockoff with unique qualities of its own.

Full Review… | January 31, 2010

Audience Reviews for Dementia 13


Not a bad schlocky horror flick overall, but the real reason this film is even remotely noteworthy is that it's the directorial debut of Francis Ford Coppola (credited as Francis Coppola in the credits). Before Coppola directed landmark cinematic masterpieces such as "The Godfather" and "Apocalypse Now", he directed this low budget chiller with B-movie king Roger Corman producing with funds left over from "The Young Racers". Coppola's raw vision is definitely made apparent through some inventive cinematography and atmospheric locations. The film is sprinkled with brilliant scenes like the film's first murder and the opening sequence. It is also apparent that Hitchcock is one of Coppola's influences because the plot is essentially a low-rent "Psycho". Eventually the movie becomes bogged down by a drawn-out mystery plot that makes the film drag in the second half. The plot also becomes so incomprehensible at times that it becomes hard to care because their is barely a central protagonist. Plus some juvenile gore effects make the film border on silliness. This B-grade horror chiller is certainly watchable but I've seen better.

Christopher Heim
Christopher Heim

Super Reviewer

By the time this film was over, I couldn't help thinking that if it were made today, using modern technology and special effects, "Dementia 13" might be one of the all time great horror and psychological thrillers. Add to that the fabled directing of an experienced Francis Ford Coppola, and you would have a modern day classic instead of a 1960's era 'B' grade programmer. Even so, the movie stacks up remarkably well, dated or not, particularly in the creepy edge given to it by the dysfunctional Haloran clan and it's setting in an old Irish castle.

Early on, we're led to believe that the scheming Louise Haloran (Luana Anders) will play a primary role in the Haloran saga, out to secure a sizable fortune upon the death of her mother in law (Eithne Dunn). She's not above a bit of skulduggery when her husband John dies of a heart attack while rowing on an estate pond; she merely weights his body down and sends it overboard. Blaming his disappearance on a business trip, Louise prepares to deal with the annual ritual of honoring the memory of John's deceased sister Kathleen, now dead for seven years. Mother Haloran presides over the austere gathering under black umbrellas, just as the original ceremony was conducted in the rain, a very effective touch.

John and Kathleen have two surviving brothers, Richard and Billy, (William Campbell, Bart Patton), and as the movie progresses, one begins to understand that something is not quite right with either one of them. Through deft storytelling and misdirection, Coppola guides our way through an intricately weaved mystery that plays out among suffocating underwater scenes and well timed ax thrusts. The appearance of a very lifelike doll in the image of young Kathleen keeps showing up in unusual places, adding resonance to the mystery.

The Haloran family doctor, portrayed by Patrick Magee, has his own ideas about what's going on, but manages to cast suspicion on himself along the way. Watch carefully in the movie's latter half when he enters a work shed and discovers the body of Louise and the lifelike Kathleen doll. Carefully picking up the doll, he closes the shed door, and immediately in the next scene is shown walking with the doll in his arms and a cigar in his mouth.

As flashback scenes of young Kathleen's drowning death recur through brother Billy's memories, the link is established to the identity of the film's ax wielding loony. When his identity is finally revealed after taking a bullet from the vigilant Dr. Caleb, he utters the message earlier seen on a headstone which lay buried beneath the pond's surface - "Forgive me Kathleen".

Taken together, and reflecting on all the elements of the story, "Dementia 13" defines itself as a satisfying horror mystery that laid the groundwork for future greatness for it's young director Francis (minus the Ford) Coppola. When you consider that Coppola also wrote the original story, you'll have an even greater appreciation of the film, and rightfully so. Fans of Mr. Coppola and 1960's horror should not miss this one.

David Ladd

Super Reviewer


The mixture of gothic/Poe type stuff with a bit of Hitchcock is cool, and there are a couple of neat scenes, but this is really not all that special or remarkable. For a low-budget film, it's not bad, but the only reason why this film is remotely interesting is because it is the "legit" directorial debut of Francis Fords Coppola. Oh yeah, some of the music is cool, but the rest feels like melodramatic fluff or something. See it if you won't, but don't expect much.

Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

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