Tuesday, June 29, 2010

'Unhinged' is nearly unwatchable

Unhinged (1982)
Starring: Laurel Munson and Sarah Ansley
Director: Don Gronquist
Rating: One of Ten Stars

Three girlfriends are heading to a rock concert (to be followed by some camping) during a servere rainstorm. They run off the road, sure they're dead... but then they wake up in a creepy old mansion, filled with creepy old characters. And just what is hiding in the toolshed?!

"Unhinged" is a horror movie that gets just about eveything wrong.

*The movie STARTS with the shower-scene even before there's anyone to menace the nubile young thing (oh... and it's a badly acted AND badly staged shower-scene. Yes, "Unhinged" is one of those movies that proves it's possible to do a bad shower scene.

* The story (what little there is of it) only works, because the characters spend too much time doing things that no rational (or able to wipe themselves after taking a dump) person would do. If the characters took one or two simple, obvious actions, the whole movie would cease to be. Likewise, the ending only happens because the lead character's only guiding light is how to make the badly plotted story work. She is as close to the Platonic Ideal of Stupid Character Syndrome as we will ever see in this imperfect world.

*Of the two girls playing the leads, only one shows a glimmer of acting ability in her final scene. However, it's far too little and far too late to save the picture.

*There are multiple occassions where there seems to be a build-up to something dire or scary or startling is about to happen, but then there's no pay-off. Heed my words, young would-be filmmaker: Repeated "oooh, let's trick 'em by making things seem all spooky and then not do anything" isn't laying a foundation for the real scares... it's just makes the audience annoyed and irritated.

I stuck with this entirely too-slow-film until the end, because I kept thinking that it would get better. Then, it started getting worse... with it getting progressively more unbelievable and just plain dumb. I do grant director/co-writer Gronquist kudos for giving the the movie an ending so stupid that it took me completely by surprise, thus giving the film a tiny bit of merit. Even better, the ending had been set up earlier in the film, so as far as that goes, Gronquist showed himself to have a little bit more storytelling ability than most directors and screenwriters working in horror movies today where they idea of a "twist-ending" mostly seems to be "random shit that has nothing to do with anything previously presented in the film."

The DVD version of "Unhinged" that I watched had a 'comedy commentary track' as one of the audio options by a group of writers and film reviewers who've dubbed themselves 'The Distractors'. It was almost as badly done as the film they were commenting on, because the actual soundtrack was completely inaudible (one of the group even at one point says that they can't even hear the sound of the film and they are uncertain what is being discussed). It's a shame, because I had hopes when I saw that Shannon Wheeler (the creator of "Too Much Coffee Man") was one of the viewers. There were enough off-color comments about breasts, discussion of why the girls on their way to a concert and some camping would have nightgowns and three or four changes of not-very-outdoorsey clothes to make the commentary amusing, but it could have been better. The highpoint om the commentary hi-jinx was the attempt to look up those involved in making "Unhinged" in the phone book and calling them for their take on the film.

Another bonus feature on the DVD I viewed was a television interview with the director and one of the actresses featured in the film that was recorded back in 1982 to promote the film's release. If I'd watched the interview first, I probably would have known to bother with "Unhinged" itself. I've never seen someone so inept at selling his movie as Gronquist was--it was as if he knew he'd made a piece of trash and didn't really want to talk about it. The actress did a better, though.

There's really nothing to recommend watching "Unhinged", unless you want to see a compact collection of what NOT do to whether you're a screenwriter, an actor, or a director.

(Trivia: This film was banned in Great Britain as one of the "Video Nasties" until 2005. One wonders what caused the British censors to develop such hatred for movie watchers that they would cause them to be exposed to this film.)

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