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Horror Becomes Her - A Night to Dismember (1983)

Horror and films directed by women are both big blind spots for me, so I am taking this deep dive into some of the more outre films I have come across in my movie watching.

Doris Wishman was known mainly for making erotic films and not particularly good ones at that. So I was a bit surprised to watch A Night to Dismember on the worst “print” (actually a VHS rip) and see a really bizarre, stylish movie. It’s not good by any means. The story is borderline nonsensical, focusing on a series of murders from one family that take place constantly and receive no real recrimination. Also, it is clear that Wishman had never done a horror movie before (and never did one again). There’s a ridiculous voiceover from the detective that was assigned to investigate all the grisly murders. Thankfully, in the extended cut, the voiceover is gone early. It also lacks the pacing and tension of most horror movies, which may work in this movie’s favor for some people and not so much for others.

However, there is some interesting camera work here and some creative kills, even if it’s something as simple as just tilting the camera to signify disorientation. Also, for a director known for her erotic films, there is surprisingly little nudity, and what there is not particularly gratuitous. In fact, this movie is strangely empowering for the women since they are the main suspects in most of the murders, although Vicki being subject to mental instability does sound suspiciously like a heroine having a typically “female” problem. Overall, this is definitely a flawed movie, but not an uninteresting one, and there are a few ideas worth pondering over in this film.

 

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