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DEMENTED (1980) **

Sallee Elyse stars as a woman who is gang-raped in a barn by several men wearing pantyhose on their head. After a time, she moves back into her house as her surgeon husband (played by porn star Harry Reems!) tries to convince her everything is okay. On her first night back, she thinks she sees a rapist in her mirror and faints. Reems calls for a doctor, who recommends that he stay with her. Of course, that’s cutting in on his time with his lover. He leaves his wife home alone so he can get some tail and she winds up being attacked by some teenagers wearing Halloween masks. Although they don’t rape her, the experience is enough to send her over the edge.

The next night, they come back and Elyse flips out. She lands a meat cleaver into one guy’s neck and castrates another with a wire before chopping him up. When her husband comes home to tell her he’s leaving her, he becomes meat cleaver fodder too.

Demented does something novel as it tries to examine the psychological ramifications of a sexual assault within the confines of a generic horror movie. Most films of this ilk would be more concerned with the murder and rape set pieces, but this one spends a lot of time lingering on the female’s fragile mental state after the attack. It has a lot to say about victim-blaming too as her husband, doctor, and even her sister try to convince her to move on with her life. Reems at one point says, “Don’t dwell on it!”

This could’ve been effective, but thanks to the amateurish performance by Elyse, that whole angle is about as shaky as a house of cards. Her awkward delivery of lines like, “I was raped! I didn’t get a frontal lobotomy!” and “Why don’t you just drop dead!” are often shrill and sometimes downright cringe-worthy. Elyse does do a good job on the scenes where she starts talking like Betty Boop and starts putting pancake make-up on her body to cover up her victim’s blood.

I applaud the filmmakers for aiming high by trying to chronicle the psychological aftereffects of the character’s rape instead of just indulging on the more exploitative angles. It’s just a shame that the acting is too inconsistent and the writing isn’t strong enough to make it all work. Speaking of writing, the flick was written by none other than The Incredible Melting Man himself, Alex Rebar! Frankly, he did a better job melting in that movie than he did writing this one. Still, I’ve got to take any opportunity I can get to bring up The Incredible Melting Man into casual conversation.

For the most part, Demented is slow-moving and unpleasant. When it drops the interesting, albeit unsuccessful journey of the victim coping with an attack and reverts back to being a standard horror flick, it’s still unsatisfying. Even though the meat cleaver scenes are decent, there’s a long-winded dinner sequence in which Elyse feeds one of her attackers steak (which may or may not be one of his friends) by candlelight that just goes on way too long and has a lame conclusion.

Reems is pretty good as the thoughtless husband. He’s selfish because his wife doesn’t want to be intimate anymore so he runs off and becomes a sugar daddy to an out-of-work actress. It’s too bad that the movie cheats us out of seeing his inevitable comeuppance.

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