Richard LeMay is a self-made filmmaker from Massachusetts whose latest movie, Dementia 13, opens in theaters on October 6. He went to school for physical therapy, but, as he told me in a recent phone interview, “When I was 30, I just started making movies for fun. I wore every hat. I wrote, produced, directed, edited… I’ve d.p.’d two features, I’ve edited two features, I’ve done wardrobe. I’ve done everything.”
He worked “from the ground up” on his own projects. Every one got “bigger and bigger” until he sold his first film in 2004. “I’m probably better known for doing dramas. My last film, Naked as We Came, is a family drama.” However, before that, he started in film by acting. In fact, that may have been his final impetus for moving behind the camera. He told me that during the last one he did, he thought, “Wow, if this director can make a living at this, anybody can.”
In a role reversal for the filmmaker who starts out in horror as a stepping stone for other genres, LeMay told me it’s always been his goal to make horror. “There’s a level of technical proficiency that I don’t think I had in the past and I’ve been working towards that. There’re a lot of effects, there’s a lot of movement. You have to kind of speak a different language. But I learned storytelling in these quiet, simple movies that you could really work with actors and there were no bells and whistles.”
Perhaps this approach will result in higher quality horror films. “I hope so. I always wanted to do something a little smarter. I think nowadays the whole genre is becoming smarter and slicker. It’s a whole new thing. I think we went through a little period where you’d see some horror movies that they only cared about the blood… and I didn’t want to do that. But I really wanted to get my head around character development and the acting. Acting is very important to me.”LeMay discussed his challenges when getting behind the camera for the first time. “To be really honest, I think because I didn’t go to school, I felt like I didn’t know enough and I didn’t feel like I could ask people who knew what they were doing to help me, because I felt like I’d just be exposed. I made my first few films without knowing anything about what I was doing, and they were horrible. There’s a lot to be learned from that. That was my biggest challenge, just accepting there’s a lot of people who can make you look better.”
When he met with writer-producer Darren DeFillipo, LeMay had a lot of ideas about Dementia 13. Naked as We Came was also about a dysfunctional family in one location where the house became another character. “As far as the aesthetics, that’s how Justin Smith (the other writer and Executive Producer) saw this project going. Interestingly, LeMay had never heard of the original Dementia 13 (1963) when he read the script.
“After I watched it, I was like, wow Francis Ford Coppola!” LeMay is a huge fan of Francis Ford Coppola, who wrote and directed the original movie. I asked him if the writers shared any of their motivation for doing a remake of a mediocre, 54-year old film. “I never asked that question, why they wanted to unearth this movie from the 60’s, but I’m glad they did.”
You can read our review of Dementia 13 here, but one of the points it makes is that the original is such a mishmash of themes and ideas, while the remake is more focused. Which of the elements were particularly appealing to LeMay? “The interesting thing in this, and in the original as well, is the dysfunctional family. That’s where the drama comes from, where some of the humor comes from. When the horror element kicks in, it’s layered on top of who these people are and in some ways it brings them together, albeit maybe too late.”
The remake also adds a home invasion element that was not present in the original. LeMay said, “It’s funny. When I read the script I didn’t see that coming and I thought that was an interesting twist. What I loved best about the script when I read it was its fast pace. It just goes once you start it, just boom-boom-boom. And it really keeps you guessing. With that element to it, it adds another layer of danger to this family. I really appreciated that, actually.”Dementia 13 takes advantage of its setting, with beautiful cinematography by Paul Niccolls. “We shot at a castle in Cornwall, Connecticut, on a thousand-acre estate. We literally didn’t have service. We didn’t have wi-fi. It was pretty remote. My director of photography (Niccolls) was an absolutely amazing force on the set. He’s a huge part of this, and he’s a pleasure to work with.”
I was also impressed with the movie’s score. “Adonis Tsilimparis is a really talented musician. This is my third film with him. What I love about him is I’m not a musician. I don’t speak the music language, but I’m very opinionated. He’s patient with me and he works quick, and in spite of me always dragging him down. I have really good shorthand with him.”
LeMay’s next feature, Blood Bound, is another horror movie, but this time he’s also writing and producing, as well as directing. He says it’s about a family of witches that descend upon a small rural town to perform an ancient ritual. It stars Josh Brolin’s daughter, Eden. “I think people are going to be floored when they see what this girl can do. She’s so young and so talented. I’m really proud of the stuff we did in that. We also have Eric Nelson, and he’s a pretty talented guy.”
A family of witches… Is this another dysfunctional family of which LeMay is so fond? “Not so much. The ending has a lot of surprises. I’m reluctant to talk too much. They’re doing something which involves human sacrifice, but they don’t want to do it. It’s kind of ambiguous as to whom the bad guy is in this thing as it unfolds. It’s a very dark, dark tale and it’s very character driven.”
Dementia 13 is the retelling of Francis Ford Coppola’s film of the same name, which was produced by Roger Corman.
The film was written by Dan De Filippo (The Invaders and Chilling Visions: 5 States of Fear) and Justin Smith (SiREN, The Boy), is directed by Richard LeMay (Blood Bound, Naked As We Come) and stars Channing Pickett (Redheads Anonymous), Marianne Noscheze (Horror Time), Christian Ryan (Celebrity Ghost Stories, Casters), Julia Campanelli (116) and Ana Isabelle (The Eyes, Lost Cat Corona).
Chiller Films will be releasing Dementia 13 in Theaters on October 6th and on VOD and Digital HD on October 10th.