Coppola fans may recognize Dementia 13 as his first feature film, a twisted story of family, the supernatural, and betrayal. Richard LeMay directs the 2017 remake of this 1963 classic with a flair for the dramatic and a similar perspective. Dementia 13 is LeMay’s first studio film, and his dedication to the work is sure to appease even the toughest of fans. I spoke with him about the trials of remakes, the beauty of the dramatic film, and the horror genre as a whole.
What attracts you to the horror genre?
I’ve always been a fan since I was a kid. I remember me, my brother and my sister sitting on the couch watching Wolfman or whatever one of those when I was really little, those are my earliest memories. that was it for me I was always a fan of horror from like little tyke up until now and its j7ust been really exciting how good horror is now, not that it wasn’t before, but I really like the direction it’s been taking.
Modern horror films like to rebrand themselves as thriller or post-horror, even.
Yeah, but really it’s the one genre that has a lot of subgenres, you know like you have those about serial killers, slasher flicks, torture porn… so you really got to chalk it up to different things.
One of the things that first attracted me to the film Dementia 13 was that it was one of Coppola’s first big films, what brought you on to it?
Well I was approached by the producer, he was the one who brought me on board and I was like “Oh my God, Coppola? I’m a huge fan.” I knew I was not going to do it a justice. I really respect the original source material and I try to put my stamp on it, even though there will always be people that prefer the original.
I imagine that in recreating material from someone like Francis Ford Coppola you’re going to get a lot of negativity just for not being him.
Exactly, and you know I know that, it’s like up-front so I kind of tried to prepare myself… My intentions were pure, you know, and I can say it. When you take on a legend… it’s crazy.
I think your Indie Drama background also shines through in the perspective of this movie as opposed to if a horror director specifically had directed it.
Well, thank you. People kind of roll their eyes when I say this but I mean it, I look at everything like a drama. I think whether its horror, whether its comedy, whatever reality you have on screen, everything has to have that element going and you can create characters that are relatable and passionate. I think the goal is to create something real, whatever the rules are, whether there are supernatural elements or something.
I think that provides more depth. People approach horror like you said with the different subgenres- torture porn, etc. I’m sure being a fan of classic horror like Wolfman you wanted to get away from the something like torture porn and gore.
I’m really uncomfortable with torture porn and real stuff like serial killers but I mean, I don’t judge it. It’s just not for me. Wes approaching me with this script and doing this was just the best decision I’ve ever made and the best thing that’s ever happened to me. It sucks though that there are things in horror that are so real, like with serial killers, because it actually happens. If you have like supernatural elements like a ghost, a werewolf, a witch, a vampire… it’s just escapism.
What specifically attracted you to Dementia 13?
Well when I got approached I read the script and I thought it just moved so fast like that script when I read it, it felt like ten minutes went by, and it’s like an hour and a half film. It just moves at a constant clip and I really love that. I mean, not to mention it’s a film by Francis Ford Coppola. This is my first studio film so there’s a lot of things that attracted me to do this film, but I think ultimately it was the pacing of the script I thought was really fun, and I thought it was a challenge to tackle.
Watching some of your other films even, Naked as We Came being one that comes to mind, they have that sort of biblical, dramatic aspect to them as well.
Oh, well thanks for even watching that. It was a really quick, fun film to make and what was really great about that movie was what came out of it, kind of like a jumping off point to a lot of different things. It came out in 2013 and it was one of those crazy moments where it premiered in LA and New York Times reviewed it and I kept rereading it just because I didn’t expect to get reviewed by The Times… You don’t really know when you’re sitting in that darkroom if people are going to like your work. That’s one of those things, especially happening in 2013, where I was like “Whaaat?”
Is this a film you would have chosen to remake or did you have a dream film in mind?
That’s a good question. To be quite honest, when I was approached and I saw it with the producers that was the first time I watched the film. I don’t know if I would have said “Yeah, I have to make this film.” I don’t think in terms of remakes. I’m a writer as well so I think that I try to come up with as much original content as possible. But, I’m really happy to be a part of it and proud to say I tried to put my stamp on it. I’ve never said “I could do that better” to any film. Each film is a time capsule, you know? And I think, when I watch the original, there are moments of real genius there and I think in the whole movie there were nods to where he was going in his career, and that’s really cool- when you see the genesis of a legend. So, I don’t think I would have ever said “Yeah, I want to remake that.” But as an opportunity, you know as it comes up, yeah. I’m really happy to tackle a challenge. I didn’t want to outdo anything, and there are people I idolize but I wouldn’t think to try and remake their work. But, it was a really exciting challenge. I also got to work with a lot of toys, new technical things I hadn’t handled in the past.
What’s next for you?
I have another horror film as well that I just completed coming out next year called Blood Bound. I have several horror scripts I’ve written, and I also have some dramas that I’ve written and I’ll push everything out there but my goal is to do more horror. That’s always been my goal. I just want to start making bigger and better movies. So, I have this new screenplay that in a perfect world I would be shooting, and we’ll see what happens. I’ve come to learn that you never know what the next project is- you can think it’s one thing, but at the end of the day things pop up. I’m actually in talks to do a thriller, and that could be really interesting. But, I don’t know exactly what’s next. I just hope I get another job.
Always a good goal to have.
Thank you to Richard LeMay for sharing some of the insights in what it means to explore a piece of legend in filmmaking and sharing with Sinful Celluloid.
Dementia 13 is available now on VOD and Digital HD.