Exploitastic! Doris Wishman’s A NIGHT TO DISMEMBER (1983)
What happened when notoriously oddball sexploitation director Doris Wishman tried to make a horror film, but half the negative was destroyed by an angry lab technician and lil’ ol’ Doris had to cut and paste some sort of movie from the remains? Why, 1983′s nonsensical slasher A Night to Dismember, that’s what!
All I can imagine is then-70-year-old Doris in an editing room with scraps of film all over the place, bits of Scotch tape stuck in her face and hair, squinting at a strip of negative she’s holding to the light, holding scissors to it with a shaking hand. Not to mention her sitting there doing the dubbing, saying, “Ker, ker, splat!” when someone’s head is run over, or trying to bark like a dog when there wasn’t any dog in the movie! She made 26 films before this, and apparently learned nothing. This thing is a mess. There are shots from other films thrown in. The omniscient narrator explains and explains again, but some of this shit still doesn’t make sense. The soundtrack cuts between the same three public domain clips that don’t match the tone of anything going on. Follow me, if you will, through this Ambien dream of a film, as I try to share what I learned after seeing this film seven times.
Detective Tim O’Malley is our narrator. He’s recapping a series of “murders and deaths” that wiped out the Kent family on October 15, 1986. This film was released in 1983, so he’s recapping from…the future? Jealous Susan Kent kills lil’ sis Bonnie with an axe, but only after we watch Bonnie undress for her bath, natch. And Robert Kent hires a hit man to kill his gorgeous wife. Upon realizing what a damn fool he is, he hangs himself. Suddenly we’re transported to 5 years prior (so…the present? Earlier?) where two teenage boys wrestle playfully in a graveyard then run away from a young lady – either because they still think girls have cooties or because this one’s wielding a kitchen knife – and flee to some basement where she stabs them to death. They were 17 year old jocks who could have easily overpowered her, but, you know, hindsight or whatever.
Back in the future, accused murderess Vicky Kent is out of the loony bin. She’s played by Samantha Fox (the porn star, not the singer/topless model of “Touch Me” fame). Her parents take her home. Adult siblings Mary and Billy, in a strange state of arrested development, still live there, and spend their time whining about how Vicky’s going to get all their parents’ attention now. Okie dokie. I think this soundtrack comes from the end credits of every game show ever.
So Billy begins a series of idiotic pranks to drive Vicky insane again. We find out both Mary and Vicky love some chump named Frankie.
Vicky mopes outside all day until the sky spins around and it’s nighttime. Frankie walks by. They hold hands and stuff while Mary spies out the window.
Frankie goes home to a presumably more mentally stable lover. Someone throws a rat at him. It’s really a cat, but Doris thought if we couldn’t see the head, we’d believe it’s a rat. We can, and we don’t.
And then they’re brutally beheaded.
Vicky eats like a pig at dinner. They tell her to use her fork even though they’re eating sandwiches. Uncle Sebastian (Sebastian? Really?) calls their whole family crazy. Day and night stop having any meaning as the film switches between the two from here on out. These characters we just barely met are dashing to their car from rain that isn’t there like they’re fleeing the freakin’ apocalypse, when…
Mary in the back seat! She goes on an ax-swinging, heart-punching, running-over-Auntie’s-head rampage! Even Sister Bea gets it, whoever the hell she is.
Billy plays some swamp monster prank on Vicky, O’Malley walks to the Kent’s to question them about their relatives’ slaying, he peeps in Vicky’s window instead and she does an “erotic” dance for him.
We are stuck in a loop of Billy’s pranks – “This would scare Vicky so she would go mad and have to go to the hospital,” (We got that, thanks) and the detective’s endless walking. “I was almost back to the precinct, when I decided to go back to the Kent house.” This movie is truly pointless. Mary starts going off the deep end (as if hacking up five people in a day isn’t deep enough).
The parents walk around in the dark for a long time until Mary’s Silver Ax finds them.
Mary hallucinates a bunch of things we’ve seen before, and a bunch we haven’t.
O’ Malley searches the house. Oh look, a bunch of people died in the ten minutes I was gone. Where’s the crazy chick going with that ax? Why do we keep running up and down the same staircase? How many stories does this place have? I’m gettin’ out of breath.
Vickie axes the detective and he chokes her to death, both for no reason, and Mary hits the road.
O’ Malley ties up all the loose ends we were so worried about, then pulls a John Walsh asking to report to him if we know Mary’s whereabouts. In the future?
So, if you’re a fan of confusion and deep hurting, and find complete and utter ineptitude amusing, go watch A Night to Dismember! The DVD includes an audio commentary with Doris bickering with her cinematographer, C. Davis Smith. If you’re not a fan of those things, well, I just saved you 68 minutes.