DISCONNECTED might as well be called DISJOINTED, as this wannabe Hitchcockian thriller cum slasher is a maddening mess of a movie. Which is a shame, as there is a much better film in there desperate to be pulled from the wilful abstraction and New Wave posturing.
DISCONNECTED revolves around a meek young woman called Alicia (Frances Raines), whose normal life comes to an end after a strange occurrence. She spots an old man seemingly wandering aimlessly outside her apartment complex. Taking pity on him she invites him in to use her phone, but when she returns from making a cup of tea he has mysteriously vanished.
Seemingly co-incidentally, the police are investigating a series of brutal slayings of local women. They are stumped, but are sure that the killer must live in the nearby vicinity as all the victims lived near each other.
Alicia’s twin sister Barbara-Ann (also played by Raines) is much more of an extrovert, and the sisters barely get on. Also, Alicia begins to suspect that Barbara-Ann is in the process of stealing her boyfriend, Mike (Carl Koch). This seems to be backed up when she begins to receive a series of phone calls, some silent, some with overheard snatches of dialogue from people she knows, but most disturbingly deranged screams and what sound like an elephant having his tail stepped on!
Alicia becomes increasingly disturbed by the incessant ringing of the phone at her home. The only respite comes when she goes to work at the local video store. One day, a polite, but decidedly odd, young man called Franklin introduces himself as an admirer. Sure that her and Mike are finished, Alicia agrees to go on a date with him. However, the phone calls continue and she finds herself potentially next on the killer’s hit list …
DISCONNECTED was made by an operation called ‘Generic Films’, which is somewhat ironic as this is anything but. Whilst it takes its cues from Hitchcock (with posters on the walls from his films in Alicia’s apartment and much discussion of his films), Gorman Bechard seems determined to skew the traditional thriller and women-in-peril elements of his film. At times it seems it will veer into SISTERS (1973) or REPULSION (1965) territory, but it is clear that, despite some blood and nudity, the director would have preferred for this to end up in the art house as opposed to the grind house.
Admittedly, there are some arresting images, such as the killer talking on the phone in bed only to pull back to reveal the bloody corpse of a victim lying next to him. The film is also audacious for seemingly identifying and dispatching the killer at the halfway running point, but Alicia’s nightmare is not over – if anything, things get worse for her. And that damn phone just won’t stop ringing.
DISCONNECTED also distinguishes itself from the pack through its soundtrack. It is populated by spiky lo-fi New Wave tunes that rarely made an appearance in the subgenre at this time, despite being relatively popular. In this regard, it brings to mind Abel Ferrara’s DRILLER KILLER (1979), although it is nowhere near as brutal as that film.
As you might expect for a low budget feature of this nature the acting ability varies throughout hugely. No more so than with Raines as the twin sisters, who at some points possesses an engaging other-worldliness and at other time barely appears able to get her lines out. She went on to have a short-lived career in genre movies, most notably Buddy Cooper's slasher THE MUTILATOR (1985).
Whilst the feeling that you never really know what is happening can be intriguing in the hands of, say, David Lynch, here it is mostly frustrating – especially by an ending that only creates more questions than it answers. Having resisted thus far from making any telephone gags, I guess you could sum this up as being unengaging overall (I'm here all week, folks!). The director went onto make the cult flick PSYCHOS IN LOVE (1987), which, like this, is something of an acquired taste.
BODYCOUNT 5 female:4 / male:11) Female strangled