Director: Don Gronquist
Year of release: 1982
Country of origin: USA
Running time: 79 minutes
DVD/Blu ray: DVD only
Tagline: "Violence beyond reason, victims beyond help..." and Get your slice from the Reaper".
Estimated budget: $100,000
Casting the spotlight on the slasher genre
Story: Whilst travelling by car to a music festival three college age girls fall victim to torrential rain and encroaching darkness which leads them to suffer a road accident. Knocked unconscious in the crash they come to inside a vast mansion evidently having been brought there by the estates odd job man after he discovered them at the crash site. With one girl more seriously injured and confined to bed the other two have the run of the building which is run by the elderly and somewhat addled Edith Penrose and her long suffering daughter/carer Marion.
With the mansion being situated in isolated forest land with no phone and the roads washed out due to persistent rain one of the girls decides to hike to the nearest town in order to call home. This leaves her friend Terry and the bed ridden third girl to fend for themselves in the house where it becomes apparent their hosts harbour a sinister history and secret which could be linked to many disappearances in the vicinity.
Good points: *Could be considered a minor spoiler: Unhinged’s most valuable commodity has to be it’s surprising twist ending which packs a punch and leaves things on a rather different note than what’s normally the case. Though maybe many weren’t so lucky, the ending hadn’t been spoilt for me on first viewing so I was able to enjoy it to it’s fullest. It’s an ending that stays with you and leaves an impression.
*The mansion looks really impressive with both it’s interior and exterior very much looking the part. It’s a far cry indeed from the very modest looking house substituted in for this many years later in the British remake. In the case of the mansion here I particularly liked how it looked in the numerous wide night time shots of the whole building complete with lightning and lashing rain. These shots reminded me a lot of the Spiral Staircase. I’d have liked to have seen a bit more of the rooms inside such as the kitchens for example but what we do see is great and the filmmakers definitely made a good choice in picking the house/location.
*I really liked the little touches of eerie music which were used either in dramatic moments or in parts where a character noticed something untoward. For example the music that accompanied Terry seeing the light go on outside in the summerhouse/shed type building. These along with the heavy breathing type sound effects and image of the eye when the girls are being spied on really helped with creating a creepy atmosphere and a sense of trepidation. The eye thing coupled with the Edith mother character were no doubt inspired by Psycho and I think they pay homage to that classic well and manage to recapture a similar tone.
*Speaking of the Mother she’s great, coming across as suitably batty and domineering. She’s also very posh and articulate as well which adds to her aura. Even better is her daughter Marion who does the lions share of the talking during the film. The three girls I have to say are a bit wooden but Marion more than picks up the shortfall and the actress pulls off the role with real aplomb.
Bad Points: *The first hour of the film moves slowly in parts and though I certainly didn’t find it boring from a pacing perspective it could have done with an extra murder inserted into this portion. As it stands there is only the one kill during this whole time with all the others coming towards the end. One or two others during the earlier parts would have helped spread them out better and liven things up just that little bit.
*During the aforementioned first hour I’d have liked to have seen a bit more effort put into the script, specifically when it pertains to Nancy and Terry (the two girls involved in the crash who mainly escaped injury). Though they do gossip about finding things awkward in the house if I were scripting it myself I’d have had them speak with disappointment over the festival they’d be missing as well at discussing what state the car would be in seeing how they didn’t get to see it post-crash. I also think they should have been questioning Marion more about how much longer they would be likely to have to remain at the mansion. They could have enquired about how badly the roads flood and to what extent they became impassable.
Lastly regarding the script a better job could have been done with the third bed ridden girl Gloria who is largely ignored and seemingly forgotten about. She should have had one or two extra scenes and again been more of a subject of conversation amongst the characters particularly in regards to her health.
*The editing is poorly done as I noticed some weird looking transitions between scenes where the screen would just go black for example for several seconds. I only really noticed it a couple of times in the first parts of the film though so it isn’t a big deal.
Verdict: This is quite an underrated one for me and I find it to be a lot better than many of the more high profile slashers from the same decade. Sure it can be ponderous in the first hour , the script could be touched up and the final girl leans toward the wooden side but the positives far outweigh these minor issues. Perhaps one plus to the slower than normal approach in the beginning is that it didn’t bother me as much as it normally does that the killer has no mask/disguise. Due to the fact that we just didn’t see much of them at all I mean. Anyway overall the creepy atmosphere, lavish location, disconcerting mother daughter combination and a terrific twist really led me to enjoy this one.
Bodycount (contains major spoilers):
1)Nancy: Killed with scythe in the woods.
2)Gloria: Hatchet buried in her forehead as she lies in bed.
3)Carl: Shot with hand gun by Terry.
4)Terry: Stabbed repeatedly with knife/machete by Marion.