Monday, July 18, 2022

Census Bloodbath: The Line Is Dead

Year: 1984
Director: Gorman Bechard
Cast: Frances Raines, Mark Walker, Carl Koch
Run Time: 1 hour 22 minutes

Plot: Disconnected follows Alicia (Frances Raines of that same year's The Mutilator), a video store employee in Waterbury, Connecticut who is being haunted by strange noises on her telephone as well as the fact that her twin sister Barbara Ann (also Frances Raines) always sleeps with her boyfriends. After one such indiscretion causes her to break up with Mike (Carl Koch), she begins to go out with the cute nebbish Franklin (Mark Walker), though unbeknownst to her he is in the middle of serial sex murdering his way through half the beautiful women in town.

Analysis: Gorman Bechard is probably the best director with the least aptitude for making movies. Between Disconnected and his 1987 effort Psychos in Love, he has certainly proven that he should definitely procure and maintain a day job and yet both films are nevertheless limitlessly compelling. His existence is meant to provide an imbalance to the "so bad it's good" scale, because his movies are so bad they're bad, but there is a vim and vigor to them that can't be dismissed.

I suppose the right word for his work here really is "interesting." Because of his lack of skill behind the camera (at least in the mid-80's; I cannot speak to the cavalcade of documentaries he has directed in the interim), he keeps falling ass-backward into unusual setups that he would know better than to include if he, well, knew better. His bumpers-down approach to the medium results in scenes that you couldn't possibly have ever seen before, or at least executed in quite the same way, including the bizarrely meta series of documentary confessionals with Carmine Capobianco's (also of Psychos in Love) cop character that are interspersed throughout the project to catch viewers up on the plot. Disconnected actually has quite a similar plot to Psychos in Love, only with one fewer psycho, come to think of it. It also has a lot of its bizarre feints at style, with excess crammed into every frame.

Naturally, there are some elements here that are just bad, including the audio recording in which dialogue is frequently drowned out by the motors of passing cars. There is also one utterly indefensible shot where the sun streaming through the blinds drowns out everything in the frame so strongly that you begin to suspect the film was shot somewhere on the planet Arrakis. However, as I've said, the best moments thrive in that liminal space between "was this intentional?" and "holy shit, what am I looking at?" like the scene that randomly becomes a series of still black-and-white images before abruptly returning back to regular color and motion.

One thing it can't quite capture, unfortunately, is being a proper slasher, but I take what I can get with this project. Another bummer is that Disconnected is only interesting up to a certain point. That point is when the plot ends, but alas the film continues for a solid 22 minutes beyond it. The aggressively needless wheel-spinning of this stapled-on fourth act, which add nothing and conclude nowhere, makes this a considerably less easy film to recommend than Psychos in Love, unfortunately. But if you just brush that under the rug, it's a mighty fine time at the movies.

Killer: Franklin (Mark Walker)
Final Girl: Alicia (Frances Raines)
Best Kill: I guess it's the death of the second victim of Franklin, who is stabbed in bed, but that's because it's the only murder that's actually onscreen.
Sign of the Times: The video store where Alicia works is intoxicatingly early '80s, and I had a lot of fun scoping out the covers on the VHS tapes behind her, which included previous Census Bloodbath productions Mother's Day, Visiting Hours, and Halloween II.
Scariest Moment: The scene where Alicia first meets Franklin is an appropriately creepy moment that any retail person can relate to, where a customer is being weird and absolutely refuses to leave.
Weirdest Moment: After Franklin kills a woman, the camera pans up to a crucifix on his wall, as if we're supposed to be shocked that a Catholic is capable of doing something bad.
Champion Dialogue: "It's a pity those four girls can't eat grinders anymore."
Body Count: 4
    1. Woman #1 is killed offscreen.
    2. Woman #2 is stabbed to death.
    3. Barbara Ann is killed out of frame.
    4. Franklin is shot offscreen.
TL;DR: Disconnected is a poorly made, incoherent film, but in a way that is somewhat compelling.
Rating: 4/10
Word Count: 761

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