So once again we have survived.

Demented

tn_dementedslashersearch14b“That’s over with! Those men are in jail. I wish you would just stop dwelling on it!”

Sometimes when you’re on a Slasher Search or a Horror Quest you have to take what seems like an empty barrel, turn it upside down and start banging on the bottom and see if any chunks break off and fall out into the dirt. And if you do that you run the risk of watching something like DEMENTED (1980). From the box it sounded like an I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE rip-off, which is dangerous territory. It’s actually a little weirder than that sounds, but not really in a good way.

Director Arthur Jeffreys has no other credits, which is not surprising, or might mean that it’s a porn director using a fake name. The writer, Alex Rebar, did an obscure Christmas horror called TO ALL A GOODNIGHT, directed by David Hess.

In the opening scene our heroine Linda Rodgers (Sallee Elyse, credited as Sallee Young) comes home and starts petting her horse before suddenly being jumped by a bunch of yahoos with pantyhose on their heads who drag her into the barn and gang rape her. The complete lack of buildup or establishing of characters or story makes it seem even cruder than I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, but at least the rape scene is much shorter and less graphic.

mp_dementedSuddenly it cuts to an unspecified time later when Linda is leaving the sanitarium with her husband Matt (“Bruce Gilchrist,” which is actually a pseudonym for prolific porn legend Harry Reems from DEEP THROAT). She’s apparently been through an ordeal, but now she’s ready to go home and get back to her life. Of course, her home is the scene of the assault, so she keeps having memories of her attackers and even faints while thinking about them. This leads to uncomfortable scenes of her husband and doctor sitting in the living room wearing suits and stiffly discussing what to do with her.

Matt is a surgeon, which is not important, and one of the very few character details they bothered to give anybody. He seems to be a very sensitive husband, not the vengeful/possessive/paternal type you’d usually have in a movie about a rape survivor. But then we find out that every time he claims to be covering somebody’s shift or something he’s actually going to fuck his gold digger girlfriend, a wannabe actress who lives off his money and openly sees other men, even makes plan with them on the phone while he’s in the room.

One of Matt’s first questions to the doctor was about when Linda might be ready to have sex again, so you can guess what his excuse is. And later, when she’s still having trouble with intimacy, he tells her to just “get over” being raped.

There’s no way around Linda being the victim of all the men in this movie, and yet they manage to make her so whiny and helpless that she’s not sympathetic. Half the time she seems drugged out, and she goes back and forth between being understanding about her husband allegedly having to work and talking in a baby voice about wanting him to be home with her.

The horror-ish part comes in when a teenage neighbor boy and his friends, for reasons I cannot comprehend, decide to play a “prank” where they break into the house wearing Halloween masks and attack her. One of them pins her down on the bed and I thought it was supposed to be an actual rape, but the way they talk later it seems like no, they were just trying to do one of those practical jokes where they pretend to be rapists. Ha ha. I don’t know. Maybe we had to be there.

Anyway, when it happens she loses her grip on reality, believes they are the same people who attacked her before and decides to kill them. At this point Elyse’s performance is much better, she talks in a little girl voice and pretends to be girly in a kind of menacing way. For some reason the kids are able to be in different parts of the house and not see that she’s luring them out one by one. The guy that attacks her she slashes with a meat cleaver (pretty good neck wound makeup), another guy she tells him he’s handsome, pretends she’s gonna “make love” to him, gags him and ties him up naked for a romantic pepper steak dinner by the fireplace. Her version of the TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE dinner scene I guess. I like that she makes banal conversation about such topics as “The French make great sauces.” And then she tries to cut the kid’s weiner off with a wire.

It’s too poorly made to be a satisfying revenge, and it’s hard to see it as any kind of empowerment when it’s all about her being crushed mentally by what happens to her. More importantly I couldn’t escape the nagging feeling, based partly on the way it’s scored and the way these kids act, that it was possible we were supposed to be on their side. One of them sounds like a nice, All-American kid as he begs:

“It was just a joke! We were just having a good time!”

“Please, we didn’t mean any harm, we were just having fun!”

“Miss Rodgers, it was only a joke. We aren’t the ones that raped you. We were just playing a joke!”

It’s kind of like a cautionary tale. Be careful with your jokes, boys. It’s understandable that you would break into a lady’s house and pretend you were gonna rape her (#GamerGate) but you just might get yourself into trouble there.

It really seems less like “this is the repulsive underbelly of the patriarchy” and more like “wouldn’t that be fucked up if some lady who got raped snapped and went after other men?” But who knows. Either way it does capture a little bit of the baffling feeling of clueless sexism. And that’s about the movie’s only good quality.

I don’t say this too often, but if you’ve never heard of this one, don’t.

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VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Thursday, November 13th, 2014 at 8:11 am and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

34 Responses to “Demented”

  1. I think I got maybe 20 minutes into this one before falling asleep and never coming back. The stuff with the pranksters reminds me of HELL HIGH, though, another home-invasion-monkeyshines-gone-wrong pseudo-slasher where you can’t really figure out who the hell you’re supposed to be rooting for. So maybe one of these days I’ll give it another shot.

  2. This review makes me sad.

  3. Paul Whose Computer Is No Longer Fried

    November 13th, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    Wow… so not a fun film then, eh? It’s saying something when an eighties movie looks bad in comparison to its peers in terms of sexual politics. This is the decade that popularised the “peeping-tom pervert as loveable prankster” stereotype.

  4. Wow, I can’t think of another film Vern flat said don’t bother watching.

  5. Ridiculed.Assaulted.Psychologically damaged.Emotionally stunted. has certainly been the topic around here lately, hasn’t it? What makes me sad is the trivializing of the impact of rape in some of these films. Good call Vern on giving this the thumbs down.

  6. Charles — actually he didn’t just say don’t watch it, he said don’t even hear about it!

  7. Darren, a good 70s exploitation film that takes rape and the entire culture of misogyny that supports it seriously is one called (among other, less provocative alternate titles) RAPE SQUAD. It’s about a group of rape victims who band together in the face of police apathy to catch a rapist in a Jason mask (years before FRIDAY THE 13TH). The issues are very much front and center, with dialogue and scenarios designed to illustrate and confront victim-blaming, slut-shaming, date rape, and cat-calling, all topics that are sadly as relevant as ever. It’s still a 70s exploitation film (for an anti-rape movie it sure does show a lot of it) so it’s not perfect, but it makes a sincere attempt to deal with some very serious issues in an honest and forthright way. I recommend it if you can find it.

  8. The trailer is way better than the (terrible, terrible) film because it’s an abridged version that tells the entire story from beginning to end in 3 minutes, featuring every plot point, kill scene, even the ending:

    http://youtu.be/EtrkMmqv1eQ

  9. Paul Whose Computer Is No Longer Fried

    November 13th, 2014 at 5:39 pm

    Talking of assaulted, psychologically damaged and emotionally stunted… and I’m sorry for this off-topic rambling…

    …My friend is downstairs, right now, with his new TV. It’s got a 3D function on it, and he’s testing it out. Our conversation goes something like this:

    Me: “So what are you going to watch first?”
    Him: “Well, I couldn’t find much, but there’s this one film… My Bloody Valentine 3D.”
    Me: (stares at him for roughly two minutes without blinking.)
    Him: Well, what is it? Is it good?
    Me: …No. Really, no. Like, one of the three or four worst movies I’ve ever seen, no. Are you sure you want your first ever home 3D movie to be that one?

    …He’s watching it, right now. He can’t say I haven’t warned him. I’m considering doing… something… before he gets to the bit where the pregnant lady gets butchered. Y’know, just so he doesn’t forget that there are still good things in this world, like I did. Yeah, I should do something, but alas, I don’t have any chloroform.

    Anyway, off-topic side-note over, please go back to discussing the more pleasant topic of rape movies or something.

  10. I’m probably gonna regret asking this, but what’s so terrible about MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3D? To me, it’s just kinda bland and forgettable. I doubt it was even the worst movie I saw that week.

  11. Not much substantive to add, but I like your parenthetical #GamerGate was my favorite thing this week, Vern. Just had to mention that.

  12. This will no doubt upset Paul’s delicate sensibilities, but, as I’ve said before, I enjoy a good RapeVenge film. (yes Paul, it is a real word, I made it up and have written it twice now so that makes it an official word in my opinion. Collins are on the phone right now…)

    The dirtiest Harry of them all, SUDDEN IMPACT, is probly one of my favorites. Grimy is the perfect word for it. (Grimy – Copyright Mr Majestyk 2014). I think Sondra Locke, for all her limitations as an actress and as a warm human being, conveyed the shell-shockedness of a rape victim to good effect. Also, she shoots guys in the balls. Bonus points right there.

    RAPE SQUAD I haven’t seen, but will be on the lookout for…

  13. I do love a good rape/revenge movie, but even I have to admit that it’s hard to find one that is 100% satisfying. It’s hard to get just the right balance of righteous vengeance without dipping into complete nutbag territory (ironic, as that is usually the target body area for said vengeance). Even MS. 45, one of the hallmarks of the genre, goes from “Yeah, you go girl!” to “Okay, I guess he had that coming.” to “Um, I suppose he was kind of a jerk.” to “Hey, that guy was just standing there!?!”

    SUDDEN IMPACT did a really good job (points off for her having to be rescued by a man at the end, but the points back on because that man was Clint Eastwood). And while the woman from I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE is laughing maniacally while doing boat donuts at the end, I like to think it’s a momentary revel in victory and she pulls her shit together afterwards. Actually, the fifth season of DEXTER (with Julia Stiles) was pretty great example, too.

  14. This also got me thinking that there’s not a lot of movies about male victims of rape. Prison movies don’t count because they never directly address the issue of the rape itself, it’s just another day in Shawshank or Pentridge as some gorillas bitch.

    The only movie I know of is the Colonel Trautman one THE RAPE OF RICHARD BECK. From memory it treated the subject seriously, but I saw it a long time ago on tv so I’m not certain.

  15. Zeke, the decline in the righteousness of the vengeance in MS.45, and other questionable rapevengers, says more about the effect revenge has on the victim/avenger than anything else. I know Revenge Is A Dish Best Served Cold, but it should come with a warning – Revenge Tears Your Own Wounds Apart.

  16. Darren – True, true. And I meant satisfied in the Tarantino way, when you actually feel good after then end of the movie. MS. 45 is a powerful movie, especially the end. I love it, but I’m not smiling at the end (or at any point, really). It’s not as fun as watching Buck’s head get smashed in the door by The Bride.

  17. Yeah, and I thought The Bride’s cathartic breakdown at the end of Vol 2 was hugely satisfying (That woman deserves her revenge).

  18. “This also got me thinking that there’s not a lot of movies about male victims of rape.”

    I know, we made a consideribly big progress in acknowledging that rape is something horrible and not something that can be “walked off”, should be joked about or even blamed on the victim (Although of course thanks to “edgy” comedians and general stupidity, there are still too many people who don’t get it.), but it focuses mostly on the female side. Male rape victims are usually still used as comedy punchlines or won’t get acknowledged at all! And not just in movies!

    Basically the only two (fictional) instances that I remember, where it gets treated with all seriousness (and is not just a cliched subplot in a prison movie) are DELIVERANCE (Which then for any reason became the favourite punchline of male rape jokes.) and an episode of PICKET FENCES, where Alan Ruck played a teacher, who was violently forced by a woman to have sex with her against his will.

  19. There is an Italian post-apocalyptic film called “Warriors of the Wasteland” (directed by the great Enzo G. Castellari) in which the male hero gets raped by George Eastman and then has to get his revenge.

  20. Paul Whose Computer Is No Longer Fried

    November 14th, 2014 at 8:44 am

    Majestyk – it’s just a grubby, depressing film, with no positive points and nothing about it to like. There’s one nice character in it, and not only is she obviously only there to be Queen Latifah’d to raise the stakes, she gets it in a particularly cruel way while pregnant. With the married hero’s child. The characters are the worst kinds of bitchy, unlikeable stereotypes, and I wouldn’t want to spend any time with any of them. And that’s pretty much it… I don’t have too much to say about it, it’s just horribly mean-spirited without any humour or anything else to redeem itself.

  21. One Guy from Andromeda

    November 14th, 2014 at 10:09 am

    In Oliver Stone’s much maligned Alexander the male rape victim of the king gets his revenge by stabbing him to death in front of his son and wife.

    Hey Vern, instead of knocking on that increasingly disgusting barrel of yours, why don’t you aim your powers of analysis at Santa Sangre finally?

  22. One Guy from Andromeda

    November 14th, 2014 at 10:11 am

    Oh, also in TV’s ‘The Shield’ there’s a big, multiple season spanning plot about the chief being raped and getting to cope with it.

  23. Paul Whose Computer Is No Longer Fried

    November 14th, 2014 at 4:30 pm

    Upate on the friend situation: I just asked him how the film was. He burst out laughing and said: “That was awful! Really terrible! But the 3D looked great!”

    So… job done, I guess!

  24. Yeah, the Captain Acevada story line in The Shield..I’d forgotten about that. That was handled pretty well, from memory. I remember feeling for the guy as he struggled to get his dignity back. Good call, Andromeda.

  25. I heard PRINCE OF TIDES was pretty fucked up, with Nick Nolte’s character getting raped as a kid, but I never saw it because I heard Nick Noltle’s character gets raped as a kid, which is pretty fucked up. Plus, Barbra Streisand.

  26. Wow, this is a depressing thread. I’m going to go watch the FURIOUS 7 trailer again.

  27. I’ve always found Barbara weirdly attractive. Can’t explain why.

  28. FYI – Rape Squad is called Act of Vengeance in the U.S.

  29. Vern, where is your INTERSTELLAR review?

  30. Ugh everybody and their mother has been caught up in reviewing INTERSTELLAR. I’m glad that Vern has avoided it and just focused on putting his readers on to things they may have not seen or heard of before like this movie right here instead.

    This website is a jewel precisely because it avoids the internet hive mind mentality of just parroting concepts you find in every other single review site on the net and walks it’s own path like Caine in Kung-Fu. Then again the fact that I don’t give 2 shits about Christopher Nolan movies may also have something to do with it.

  31. How funny would if have been if Vern had posted an INTERSTELLAR review, just before you hit “Submit Comment”?

  32. It’s just that I finally saw it myself and would love to post my thoughts on it.

  33. was hoping there would be a Fly 2 review here, but this is ok, too

  34. Is To All A Goodnight that obscure? It was a slasher staple for me as a kid. I had it on tape though. I wanted to recommend it but thought you had reviewed it already.
    Anyway, its a pretty good 80’s Christmas slasher.

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