Saturday, August 31, 2013

Demented (1980): Linda Spits On Your Grave

Not a film about Juggalos....

Someone I can't remember (probably either Confucius or Helen Steiner Rice) once said that there are no strangers, just friends we haven't met yet.  If movies were people, "Demented" is like one of those friends you wish you'd never met. Annoying, cheap, loony, offensive, obnoxious, flaky, boring as hell...and yet, so insane that you have a crazy story to tell afterwards. It is something so questionable that I hesitate to even give it any attention. You may not want to encourage this new friend named "Demented" any further.

In the opening scene, Linda Rodgers (Sallee Young) is raped in a horse stable by four miscreants with stockings over their heads.  One might think that a movie which dares to open with a gang rape scene might have something more substantial to say, but apparently a less explicit version of "I Spit On Your Grave" is what the filmmakers were going for here, since the rest of the movie is utterly lightweight and silly. Linda returns home from a "sanatorium" (their word, not mine) with her husband Matt, played by Harry Reems. Yes, the porn star Harry Reems, veteran of the notorious "Deep Throat" as well as numerous other porn flicks and stag reels. Here he proves that his porn career was probably the wiser choice, as he doesn't have any real acting chops. That's OK though, because Sallee Young has even less acting talent. She blows most of the dramatic moments by either whining in a nagging voice or reacting as if she's completely insane at any given moment, which kind of makes it hard to take a movie about rape and revenge seriously. Matt brings Linda home and seems to be devoted to her recovery, despite the fact that we later learn he's been dallying with some common tramp who apparently doesn't have any empathy for Linda and is only concerned about the fact that Matt is a doctor and has money she can siphon out of his bank account. 
See this? People keep "innocently" doing shit like this to Linda. Why would the gardener greet her like this?
Linda seems to be alright for about two seconds at home, until she's left alone and starts seeing hallucinations of her attackers, who have since been caught and imprisoned for what they did to Linda. This makes it somewhat confusing for her when four young men from the neighborhood have a chance encounter with her in front of her house and apparently decide right then and there to start fucking with her and driving her out of her mind. They return wearing bizarre masks and break in while her husband is out, chasing her through the house and threatening her, for apparently no reason other than "it was in the script". She escapes them the first time by locking herself in a room, and when her husband returns home, he's not entirely sure anything really happened due to Linda's previous hallucinations. The police aren't able to do much either, with no evidence of the four men being there, so Linda feels even more helpless. Matt isn't much help to Linda, either; even though he seems genuinely sympathetic to her, he keeps caving in to the demands of his mistress, Carol (Kathryn Clayton), who forces him to leave Linda alone so Matt can come over to her apartment and do the nasty. Linda's sister, Annie (Deborah Alter) also arrives for a visit, but Linda seems to resent her visit and chases her off by acting hostile.
"HEY, lady, nice wallpaper!"

This is the main problem I had with "Demented," it walks a line between serious and ridiculous, and it stumbles back and forth between the two like a drunk performing an unsuccessful sobriety check. The opening rape scene is pretty harrowing, because here's this female character we don't know yet who is brutalized by four men at once. The shock value is short-lived though, because Sallee Young's performance is so off, the character's credibility quickly evaporates after she starts to have dialogue.  Her delivery is shrill, especially in the scenes where she's supposed to be terrified and she goes up into this Minnie-Mouse-via-Katherine-Hepburn register of speaking. The scene where the four boys first attack her in her home ends up being laughable due to Young's absurd screaming. Remember the opening scene in "Blow-Out", where the co-ed in the shower opens her mouth and emits this ridiculous scream that deflates the entire scene? That's what's going on here, but for REAL. Shit like that happens, and then we have Harry Reems's character acting like a douche, leaving his traumatized wife all alone so he can go stick it to some gold digging lingerie model. Occasionally some effective moments get through, like when Linda confronts her final victim and cooks him a steak before killing him, asking him "Why were you so mean to me? Why didn't you stop?" Everyone was just so pathetically mean to Linda, and not only her rapists. But usually when she had any dialogue at all, I just wanted her to shut up, which made me feel like a bad person.
"Huh? Are you telling me you can actually take lessons for acting?"
So back to the plot...well, you see where it's going, don't you? Linda's creep of a hubby leaves her alone again, and the boys break into the house while Linda is sleeping, wearing their Joker masks. One of them (we never know most of their names) goes upstairs to "get" Linda and bring her downstairs. He climbs on top of her, unaware that she's armed herself with a meat cleaver under her pillow. One whack in the neck later, he's dead and Linda's finally off the deep end. That's when Sallee Young slips into her "crazy" voice, which sounds a lot like Ginger from Gilligan's Island. She goes downstairs and somehow isolates one of the boys, even though there are now three of them. After giving him alcohol and letting him pass out, she sets her sights on another one, taking him up into the bedroom, "seducing" him, and then castrating him with a piece of piano wire. She murders the other two, and then when her husband comes home she murders him for good measure. The end.
"I'm demented, and I LOVE it!"
"Demented" is interesting mainly due to its seeming obscurity.  It was directed by Arthur Jeffreys, for whom this is his only credit on IMDB. 'Nuff said? It was written by Alex Rebar, who has a slightly better reputation in cult films, having portrayed "The Incredible Melting Man" in 1977 and written 1974's "Beyond the Door". But where "I Spit On Your Grave" and "Last House On The Left" were shocking and graphic, "Demented" pulls most of its punches, and is neither bloody enough nor shocking enough to be noteworthy. Even the castration/emasculation has no blood and is completely implied--somehow Linda performs the entire thing without even pulling down his pants. I'm not sure what to think of the way it plays Linda's traumatic rape for the sake of making her go homicidal on a quartet of kids who weren't even really responsible for her assault. If it had any dramatic impact then it would be easy to justify having it in the film, and instead it fails because its own low budget and ineptitude on the part of the actors (all are guilty here, not just Salley Young). But these are all accusations that were already leveled at every "rape and revenge" movie in the genre, starting with "I Spit On Your Grave."  I have to admit, I enjoyed how utterly stupid "Demented" is, but it's the kind of movie you only watch one time in your life. I'm not sure where "Demented" is coming from, but I do know I was glad when it went back there.


Anonymous said...

I have to say that when I saw this movie on VHS back in the early 80's (when I was maybe 10 or 11 years old) it automatically ruined my birds and the bees moment. I was never taught the birds and the bees by my dad like most of my friends. I immediately found arousal in black negligees, and thigh high stockings with garter belt. Of course, a seducing tall woman in heels to go with it. Then, replaying the scene many many times as I you know the rest. I have to say that 30 years later, it doesn't get old. I often have my sex partners somewhat act like Linda Rodgers- minus the annoying voice. Haha! I really wished she had made more movies, because I think I would of been her stricken fan. Again, minus the voice. --Anonymous in California

Unknown said...

Dude. Ditto.

Oc said...

Sanatorium: a hospital for the treatment of chronic diseases, as tuberculosis or various nervous or mental disorders.

Sanitarium: an institution for the preservation or recovery of health, especially for convalescence; health resort.

Anonymous said...

Sallee Elyse may have been a bad actress.
But damn, she scored high on my fantasy list after seeing this film.

Jett said...

It was jarring when Linda's final victim tied at the dining table sobbed and cried thar the supposedly nice boy next door was actually the instigator of their sadistic joke. Linda didn't believe it and killed him. He was one of the better actors in this movie.

Jett said...

And the killing.

Jett said...

I thought it jarring when Linda kills the last guy at the window, then dines by the fire with the tied up drugged guy and he sobs that the supposedly nice guy next door was the instigator of the whole prank and she refuses to believe it and shoots the bound guy although earlier Linda's doctor did catch the 'nice' boy snooping outside. When Linda's cheating husband comes home, she knows he's going to leave her for his mistress and she kills him with a knife in the bedroom.