Disconnected (1983)

Originally published in Bleeding Skull! A 1980s Trash-Horror Odyssey.

Alicia works in a video store. Her apartment is decorated with a poster for the film Neighbors and a novelty bust of Groucho Marx. She listens to bands that sound like lo-fi versions of Squeeze. I think I’m in love.

For exactly half of its running length, Disconnected does things right. It’s Driller Killer as reimagined by Brian De Palma for the suburbs — gritty, yet forged with sober hands. The first feature from writer-director Gorman Bechard (Psychos In Love and Cemetery High), Disconnected is a consuming experience in zero-budget, early 80s experimentation. There are photograph montages, fourth-wall breaking interviews, and a focus on inanimate objects rather than humans. At some point, the script ran out of pages, but everyone kept shooting. That’s the only problem.

An old man uses the telephone at Alicia’s apartment. He leaves. Night falls. The cops are searching for a psychosexual killer, whom they dub The Slasher. Alicia hangs out at a bar with her sister Barbara Ann (who is also played by Alicia), her boyfriend Mike, and some other guy. A band rips through an entire song. Is Mike sleeping with Barbara Ann? Voices on the telephone and overheard conversations tell Alicia “YES.” A fey guy named Franklin pines for Alicia. They date. He has a secret. A telephone rings relentlessly. Eventually, Alicia smashes the phone, but it’s too late. For her, and for us.

You’ll mourn the build up. You’ll curse the ending. But Disconnected is an artsy bedroom horror film that you can actually watch and appreciate even though you are not the director. Ambient noises, creative camera placements, and unexpected editing tricks work well with the cold visuals, skewed sex, and splattery violence. Acting is surprisingly earnest. But this film needs a suitable pay-off that never arrives. What does arrive is a repetitive series of questions that get less and less intriguing as the climax approaches. When it hits, answers are withheld. Trash films can thrive within these types of loose ends, and some, like Frozen Scream, define themselves because of it. Disconnected had bigger plans. They didn’t come together.

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