When arthouse meets the grindhouse what do you get? Well, you’ll get a little number called Disconnected. And don’t hang up! Because this admittedly convoluted slasher is just weird and interesting enough to seek out.
Frances Raines (star of The Mutilator and niece of acting legend Claude Raines) plays twin sisters, Alicia & Barbara Ann. The main focus of the story is on Alicia, and the film begins with her letting an old man into her apartment to use the phone (he had been waiting outside a neighbor’s door). She leaves him to make some tea and when she goes back into the living room, he’s gone.
Alicia is the more conservative of the two, although quite pretty and extroverted. Her sister, Barbara Ann is a man killer (but not literally!) and likes to cause a little sibling rivalry by stealing Alicia’s boyfriends. After Alicia breaks up with Mike (Carl Koch) for just such a discretion, she has a chance encounter with Franklin (Mark Walker) at the awesome video store she works at. He’s shy, sweet, a movie lover… and a sadistic serial killer. It’s around this time the phone calls begin. They are something akin to a crossing between Black Christmas and a dying elephant. Creepy, disjointed sounds emit from the phone, putting Alicia in a panic, but are they connected to Franklin or has someone else targeted her?
Disconnected needs a lot of work storywise, the first half is fantastic and features some oddly creepy moments, like when Franklin is lying in bed with one of his now-deceased victims. Sure the wood paneling is a touch scarier, but it’s obvious that director Gorman Bechard was making the best of his limited resources. Shot for around $40,000, Disconnected becomes a low budget slasher made for an arty audience. There are hints of David Lynch lurking beneath this film and had this not have been Bechard’s first feature or if he’d had a little more money, he may have been able to expound upon the seriously weird elements. Instead, the results are hit and miss, with most of the hits occurring in the first half.
After the major twist halfway in, the film gets a little more surrealistic and deals mostly with Alicia and the phone. And it just loses its steam, or if I can be so blatantly punny, I got disconnected.
Until I saw this movie, I didn’t know Frances Raines had done anything besides The Mutilator, where she says my all time favorite line from a movie, “I’m going to get high score in video game!” Well, good for you! She’s simply stunning in Disconnected and her performance is much stronger here than when she was getting high score! She is great as both twins, possessing both likeable and unlikable traits, keeping the characters completely different from each other. And since she’s the main focal point for about 90% of the film, she does a commendable job of keeping everything fluid.
Bechard went on to some cult fame. He helmed both Galactic Gigolo and Cemetery High. He has also written several novels. His site is pretty amazing and you can read a little about the making of Disconnected there, so please stop by!
Awkward and unfulfilled, yes. But Disconnected has enough going for it (including an awesome 80s post punk soundtrack. And I do mean awesome!) to put it on the list of truly obscure slashers worth finding.
* photo from Gorman Bechard’s site. Photo by Kathy Milani