Color, 1983, 84 mins. 32 secs.
Directed by Gorman Bechard
Starring Frances Raines, Mark Walker, Carl Koch, Professor Morono, Carmine Capobianco
Vinegar Syndrome (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)

Four The Disconnectedyears before catching The DisconnectedVHS junkies off guard with the lunatic Psychos in Love, director Gorman Bechard and several of his cohorts made their feature film debut with another slasher film that also celebrates videocassette culture. A somewhat familiar title to ‘80s horror kids via its initial tape release from Active Home Video (who also brought you The Meateater and Dream No Evil) and a budget reissue from Video Treasures, Disconnected belongs to that lovable subgenre of horror movies about identical twins, a la Sisters or Blood Rage, albeit with a different angle here.

This time the twinning involves Alicia and Barbara Ann, both played by Frances Raines (niece of Claude and a familiar face from The Mutilator and Breeders). Alicia spends her time working at a video store and dating a foreign film buff (and VCR non-owner) named Franklin (The Vindicator’s Walker), whom she doesn’t want to get snatched up by her sister unlike her past beaus. Unfortunately, Franklin also has a habit of plunging knives into his one-night stands, and Alicia’s being tormented by bizarre phone calls that seem designed to drive her crazy.

That synopsis barely scratches the surface of what it’s like to watch Disconnected, which begins with a seemingly random scene of an old man vanishing after he makes his way into our leading lady’s The Disconnectedapartment. A police subplot, a new wave/post-punk nightclub (featuring some great vintage ‘80s tunes), and other digressions fill out much of the running time, The Disconnectednot to mention some extended looks at the video store posters and inventory that will have viewers of a certain age leaning close to the screen and using the freeze-frame button. The film was very cheaply lensed on 16mm in Connecticut and looks like an amateur production, but that also gives it much of its charm since the inconsistent lighting and heavy grain also give it a rough, dreamy ambiance that’s impossible to recapture now. It’s also structurally interesting, with a few crazed plot twists that foreshadow a certain much-loved but controversial Italian horror film that came out the following decade (and won’t be named here, for spoiler reasons).

The 2017 Black Friday dual-format embossed packaging release on Blu-ray and DVD from Vinegar Syndrome does the best job possible with this scrappy production, which still looks pretty cheap and rough but improves dramatically over the past VHS by several miles. That goes for the DTS-HD MA English mono track, too, with optional English subs. The film The Disconnectedcan also be played with a brief intro by Bechard and future Psychos in Love star Capobianco (42s), who plays the main cop here, as well as an audio commentary with the pair going into more detail about how it came about from a short story and became the first of numerous collaborations they made together. If you're familiar with their The Disconnectedrapport on the release of Psychos. you'll know what the expect here -- lots of fun. Also included are separate interviews with Bechard (11m28s), about how a 16mm film production class kicked off his moviemaking passion including this first $40,000 production, and Capobianco (10m27), focusing on his early days and his work with the director that also included a pair of troubled, mangled productions later in their careers. A peek at the fledgling documentary side of Bechard's career is provided with the "short film" Twenty Questions (59m50s), which runs nearly feature length and features a large batch of very '80s interview subjects playing the title game with some surprising answers on subjects ranging from wearing fur to their deepest secrets. It's followed by an intro by Bechard to a screening of the film in 2017 at the New Haven Documentary Film Festival (17m22s) including an interesting note about how he thought the film had completely ceased to exist and turned out to be much more rewarding than he expected as a relevant time capsule of the early '80s -- just like the main feature itself. The limited edition also sports a new cover design by Derek Gabryszak and a liner notes booklet by Art Ettinger.

The Disconnected The Disconnected The Disconnected The Disconnected The Disconnected

Reviewed on November 24, 2017.