Existential Slashers: Disconnected, Last House on Dead End Street, and More

Dark Sanity1982, US, 85m. Director: Martin Green. Streaming: FilmRise, YouTube

Disconnected – 1984, US, 84m. Director: Gorman Bechard. Streaming: Tubi

The Last House on Dead End Street1973, US, 78m. Director: Roger Watkins. Streaming: Tubi

The Slayer1982, US, 89m. Director: J.S. Cardone. Streaming: Tubi

DARK SANITY (1982) (AKA: Straight Jacket) One-time Hollywood golden boy Aldo Ray slums it in this goes-nowhere “thriller.” Married couple Al and Karen move into a new house in Southern California, where Karen (Kory Clark) immediately senses danger. Al (Chuck Jamison) dismisses his wife’s jitters and reminds her of her unsavory past as an alcoholic—this hilariously overwrought moment of melodrama is followed by Al stepping out for a beer. Whatta husband! Soon after, Karen begins having vivid premonitions of a decapitation murder in the house. Being the jerk he is, Al berates Karen about her visions and believes she’s back on the sauce. Karen (who’s not exactly the warmest character) later bumps into an ex-cop (Ray) who years earlier had similar visions while investigating a decapitation killing in the same house—the head of that victim was never found. There’s also a dimwitted gardener running around with an extra large pair of shears. In the end, Karen ends up being about as sympathetic as the sofa you stub your toe on in the middle of the night. The premonition subplot never amounts to anything except a cheap form of exposition, the drama having about as much of an impact as a kindergarten production of Lucy Goosey. The acting is on the same level as an Ed Wood flick; Ray stumbles over his lines—and the musical score sounds like it was taken from a 1950s western. For the bad movie connoisseur, Dark Sanity is a must-see. For everybody else it’s a must-not. D, or B, depending on your preference.

DISCONNECTED (1984) Connecticut’s own one-man show, Gorman Bechard, wrote, directed, edited, and shot this interesting slasher as his first feature—and while the results aren’t anything to write home about, the film is a showcase for Bechard as a talented independent filmmaker. Video store owner Alicia (Frances Sherman) starts receiving disturbing phone calls. At first she brushes them off as the work of a heavy-breather, but Alicia’s sanity soon begins to slip when she has vivid nightmares of her bitchy twin sister (also Sherman) and ex-boyfriend trying to kill her. Fortunately for Alicia, the handsome Franklin (Mark Walker) helps take her mind off the recent troubles—unfortunately, Franklin is a psychopathic necrophiliac responsible for a string of murders in the area. In the end, Alicia escapes death but becomes disconnected from the world, slowly descending into Catherine Deneuve territory, á la Repulsion. The viewer also can’t help feel disconnected from the story and the uneven structure of blurred reality vs. splatter flick. Sherman is likable, and at least two-thirds of Disconnected are engaging, but it’s not enough to recommend to non-Gorman fans. A warm-up to Bechard’s video semi-classic, Psychos in Love. C+

THE LAST HOUSE ON DEAD END STREET (1973) (AKA: The Fun House) Greasy ex-con Terry (director Roger Watkins) becomes disillusioned with society and forms a group of equally scuzzy losers to make cheap porn movies aimed at the bourgeoisie. The problem is sex is no longer a selling point, leading Terry and his merry band of Susan Atkins-like followers to commit atrocious acts of violence and murder on film. An ugly, nihilistic movie that’s not the brainless gore job you’d think, but a semi-intelligent view of humanity at its worst. According to Watkins, Last House on Dead End Street was partially inspired by the Manson family and Watkins’s overall bafflement with the political and economical situations of the time. Brutal and unpleasant, but not without its merits. Recommended only for the adventurous viewer. Unreleased commercially until 1977. B

THE SLAYER (1982) Moody artist Kay (Sarah Kendall) is having nightmares—not just random nightmares, but ones featuring a snarling beast with sharp claws. Kay’s husband (who’s a complete dolt) and her friends help her forget her woes by spiriting Kay off to an isolated island for a week of relaxation. Once they arrive, the always-miserable Kay immediately begins pouting, while her husband (Alan McRae) ignores her scowling, and Kay’s best friend (Carol Kottenbrook) complains. Kay later believes a nearby rundown theater house is the same building she’s been painting back home. Her ever-supportive husband dismisses her, but the wiser viewer will know this is some heavy-duty foreshadowing. Kay continues to mope and have more nightmares, while a local fisherman’s brains are bashed in by a mystery killer. The killer then sets their eyes on Kay and her friends, who are whittled down (not quickly enough) with an assortment of sharp objects. Could the slasher be Kay’s dream demon? It doesn’t take a Rhodes scholar to figure it out—which raises the question of why the filmmakers decided to try creating a mystery in the transparent screenplay. The characters are too obtuse to care about, the pacing slow, and the gore effects cheap and unconvincing. There’s an elaborate impalement by pitchfork, but by that point in the film you’ll be far from impressed. Director J.S. Cardone would go on to helm the much more entertaining Shadowzone. C

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