“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.
Suddenly 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.
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.