Friday, April 18, 2008

A Night to Dismember

And after our brief hiatus, we’re now back to the horror movies. This was a particularly nice one to be coming back to, as in addition to having a nice amount of violence in it, it has the side benefit of being completely, unapologetically insane. Those types of movies are always a friend to this site, let me tell you.

The film is directed by Doris Wishman, a longtime veteran to exploitation films, though whose work I hadn’t seen until now. What I’ve seen from this, however, rivals the works of Ed Wood in sheer mad audacity and incompetence, and I dearly want to see more. The plot is nothing particularly unique: a woman spent five years in an asylum after murdering two local boys, and now supposedly cured, is released to her family. Soon all but one member of the family is killed. The end. Now, what makes it as amusing as it is is the way in which it was filmed. I can only assume that it was for budgetary reasons, but whatever the cause the movie was filmed without sound and was overdubbed afterward, so that most of the spoken words in the film are from a grizzled narrator that sounds like he’s trying to imitate Joe Friday. When a character in the film does actually speak, it’s generally when they’re off-camera or facing away from the screen, because when they do face the camera while talking the dialogue doesn’t come close to matching their lips. It provides for a fun bit of surrealism in the vein of Beast of Yucca Flats.

Another thing that just completely drives home the Ed Wood comparisons is her inclusion of scene fragments that have nothing to do with anything, and leaving it to the narrator to try to create some tenuous connection to them. Near the beginning of the film, for instance, after the woman has made her way back home and her brother has decided to drive her crazy again so she’d go back, we get a random shot of him chilling on a park bench somewhere reading a newspaper, while the narrator intones “He needed to drive her mad again, but how? Maybe he could get some ideas from the newspaper.” And then we go back to their house, and we never get any closure on the damn paper at all.

There’s also some delightful moments Wishman threw in just to up the sleaze factor of the film, and I love her for it. Right at the start of the film, unconnected to anything, a girl gets naked and gets in the bathtub, and then her older sister comes in and chops her up with an axe, with the narrator then telling us that shortly afterward the killer then fell on an axe herself and was dead. Presumably this was in for no reason other than to start the film off with some nudity and blood, and I for one commend her for her decision. There’s also a nice bit where the formerly crazy girl’s brother and sister first try to drive her mad again, by calling her out of her room by screaming out her name, and then in the dark whispering at her and grabbing at her until she flees back to her room. All well and good, but why is the brother’s hand affixed to her boob the entire time? How exactly did this family survive as long as it did?

I find it to be a great disappointment that the horror genre doesn’t have more films like this. If every movie we got was so cheerfully willing to fling itself off the rails right from the start, the genre as a whole would be a great deal more wonderful than it currently is. We desperately need more filmmakers out there like Doris Wishman, who IMDB helpfully informs me made, at the age of 90, a movie titled Dildo Heaven. That is dedication to the craft right there.

Rating: ***

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