Alicia is an introverted video store clerk in early-1980s Waterbury, Connecticut suffering from insecurities spurred by her glamorous twin sister, Barbara Ann, whom Alicia believes is stealing her boyfriend, Mike. Meanwhile, a series of murders is occurring in town. Alicia's troubles grow worse when she breaks up with Mike and begins dating Franklin, a shy local who has pursued her, after which she begins receiving horrifying phone calls emitting unearthly noises. Is Alicia going mad? Is it Mike--or Franklin? Is her phone evil?
The first feature of Gorman Bechard, this low-budget but arty debut is a strange cross between Brian De Palma's "Sisters" and Roman Polanski's "Repulsion," shot through with a possibly supernatural weirdness that renders the whole thing almost unforgettable. If you are looking for a narrative that makes sense and can be logically followed, this is not the film for you--though fairly straightforward, "Disconnected" has just enough weirdness about it that will leave viewers scratching their heads, with the most levelheaded inevitably frustrated.
Rather, this is the kind of film for audiences who want to be whisked away by atmosphere, into a world of wood-paneling, suburban video stores circa 1983, and autumnal leafy New England streets populated by dive bars. Despite its narrative shortcomings, "Disconnected" is a profoundly atmospheric film with a number of visual touches that are surprisingly elegant; it's also punctuated by a haunting sound design, with frequent attention to ambient noises like ticking clocks (ala "Repulsion") and unearthly, almost alien-like screeching that the protagonist is tormented by with each phone call. Bloodied hands grasp at picture frames, the camera pans to crucifixes hanging above beds inhabited by a corpse, and time passes in the form of black-and-white still frames like a 1910s hand-cranked nickelodeon. Some of these odd touches feel purposeful, others merely incidental (such as several bizarre scenes in which a detective discusses his investigation into the string of murders, facing the camera interview-style in a Hawaiian shirt), but, all together, they weave a web of utter strangeness that will either draw you in or completely deter you.
The acting here is generally lackluster, though the lanky, doe-eyed Frances Raines makes for a formidable lead in the dual roles of the twin sisters. Her acting is at times shaky but overall decent, and she spends much of the film chain-smoking and lounging around her home, illustrating a bleak existence. What is perhaps most surprising about the film is that it really throws a curveball in the last scene, which ties together the film's bizarrely brief, episodic opening sequence, and leaves the audience with a quite different view of everything they've just watched. The final scene, which ends in a freeze frame, is unexpectedly haunting, and suggests the most logical explanation is not at all correct. All in all, this cheapjack horror effort weaves a spell. 8/10.