Anyone can make a bad movie, what makes Doris Wishman’s A Night To Dismember stand out is how exceptionally bad it is. You simply don’t come across movies this bad every day. According to Wishman, the film was the best she could do after finding out that more than half the film was thrown away by a disgruntled employee at Movie Lab.
To make a film like A Night To Dismember you need a special kind of delusional determination. You have to stay focused on making the film you imagined while ignoring what you are actually making. If you gave a million monkeys a million film crews you would still need to lobotomize and blindfold all the monkeys before they could approach creating something like A Night To Dismember.
To understand what I am talking about without subjecting yourself to actually seeing the film you first have to understand the relationship between the sound and the images in the film. There isn’t any. OK, maybe there is a little, but it’s thin at best.
The music track sounds like a random sampling from a 1980s aerobics video combined with the soundtrack to a Tom and Jerry cartoon. If the music were placed randomly against the imagery you would expect that some of the time the music would fit what you are seeing, but not in A Night To Dismember. Picture Jane Fonda running in place with a headband and leg warmers. Now peel the music out from underneath her and staple it to a scene of a naked girl getting hacked to death with an ax. If you can’t picture it, that is probably an indication that your brain’s defense mechanisms are in good working order.
But it’s not just the music. The different clips that are “edited” together have different lighting, different volumes, different everything. The 80s aerobics music is dubbed in to try and smooth it all together but it doesn’t. It’s just a jumble of blood, boobs, synthesizers, and drum machines. I imagine it’s a bit like having a stroke in Studio 54.
If you do have a stroke and lose half your brain capacity you will still be able to watch Wishman’s masterpiece thanks to the dubbed-in narration provided by her brother. Every scene not only provides a visual depiction of what is happening but a verbal explanation of it as well. That rule about not telling but showing is made irrelevant by Wishman’s both showing and telling. The narration may be ludicrously redundant, but when the film falls apart (which it does frequently) the narration is the only thing to hold onto. Here is an example of Wiseman’s “tell and show method.”
The plot doesn’t really matter or make sense. The premise is that our heroine Vicky has come home from the insane asylum to reunite with her family. Her evil brother and sister are jealous of the attention she gets and so plot to drive her crazy and send her back to the asylum.
At one point the brother tries to scare poor Vicky by donning a mask and accosting her in the living room. The shot, reaction shot exchange is made up of just three clips. There is the clip of the brother approaching, the clip of Vicky backing away, and a Nosferatu homage of the brother’s creepy hand casting a shadow on the wall as he grasps at her. The first clip is repeated 8 times, the second clip is repeated 6 times, and the third clip is repeated 2 times. It’s quite the montage.
Lastly, there are the ambient and sound effects tracks. Normally this would be the soundtrack that conveys the sound effects and atmosphere but alas Wishman apparently saw no need for one. The film is completely silent save the narration and music. There are however a few sound effects that appear on the dialogue track. Someone barks like a dog to indicate the presence of a dog and sometimes when someone gets stabbed there is a person who makes a “swoosh” sound.
There is also a dream sequence. It includes lots of dutch angles and clips shot in negative but as weird as the resulting footage is it does not stick out as any stranger than the rest of the film.
I listened to Wishman’s dubbed commentary for A Night To Dismember. How shall I put this? It does not flatter her. The entire track is just her arguing with her cameraman. Her voice is whiny and nasal like a nagging mother. She’s overbearing, bossy, and displeased with everyone and everything. I only made it through half of the one-hour track before I had to turn it off.
A Night To Dismember is Wishman’s only attempt at horror. She made it in 1983 near the end of her career. Apparently she wanted to cash in on the recent wave of profitable slasher films like John Carpenter’s Halloween. Most of Wishman’s films were prurient sexploitation flicks. She’s made a truckload of them. Measuring by quantity she is quite impressive. She made some hardcore porn films too like Dildo Heaven and eventually ended her career working in a sex toy shop. In her dotage, she moved to Florida where all nice Jewish ladies go to die, which she did in 2002.
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