Saturday, June 19, 2010

UNHINGED (1982) - straight outta the PDX is a nutter mother that will smother her daughter

Two girls have a relaxing conversation about their certain doom, but I'm more interested in the revelation that a generic football jersey can be worn as a nightie of sorts.

The Video Nasty phenomenon is a great example of the foolish nature of censorship. You could have made the biggest piece of shit horror film in the world, shot on super 8 circa early eighties, and if you managed to get it tagged as a video nasty, you’re gonna be rolling in dough (or at least see an actual return on your investment). First of all, there is an incredible value in free publicity. You might even get television exposure in the U.K. for, say, a low budget U.S. regional horror movie, without spending a penny.

More importantly, the label is a cache in and of itself. Every serious horror fan in the U.K. owns (or at least has seen) most of the films on the list, just out of principle. Many people even use the video nasty list as a defacto shopping guide, collecting every single title, regardless of how horrible they may seem. While video banning did exactly jack shit in regards to social benefit, it was a wonderfully effective promotion tool. If the man tells you that something is evil, it can be a ringing endorsement. After all, “the man” is a lying asshole, and it seems wise to me to assume the opposite of what he says is closer to the truth.

Unhinged is the riveting story of a trio of female friends who get into a lame car accident (hitting a ditch with such force that it kills the vehicle) on their way to a concert. They are forced to take refuge in a creepy mansion, where an old hag and her spinster daughter argue ad infinitum, reeking of insanity with every line. The two hot ones hang out with the mother and daughter for what seems like four days or so, inexplicably changing outfits (and even hairstyles) along the way. The third girl spends this entire time injured in bed, but the other two make little effort to rectify this situation, despite many ominous developments.

Mostly though, the film is a mountain of padding, including black screens, driving shots, shots of rain, and, most of all, endless pages of dialogue. The events of note are the following:

1. A quick shower scene.
2. Another quick shower scene. While not quite lezzing out, the girls are certainly comfortable showering together, and this is still pretty hot.
3. The line "I'll make sure to excuse myself when she breaks out the heroin", spoken by the blonde to her mother in regards to her raven haired "wild child" of a friend.
4. An axe to the face murder.
5. A cool scythe murder (the best scene in the film).
6. A stabbing finale with a twist ending.

There is also a dialogue scene that I find amusing, although it may drive others to suicide. The two girls sit in bed, ironically complaining about an old lady driving them insane with her endless yammering. The blonde speaks in a bored monotone, rattling off the script without pausing for a breath or even punctuation. The dark haired chick delivers dialogue with equal cue card effectiveness, but seems to be paralyzed by fear rather than boredom; two mirror images landing in the same spot. The scene ends with a double homage to The Tenant and Ginger Rogers, when the blonde steps on a tooth and hops around, to which the other girl makes the comparison to Ginger. I don’t know about you, but finding a random tooth is pretty creepy, but I’m not quite sure why. Maybe I’m scared of the tooth fairy. That could be it.

Unhinged, like Edwin Brown’s The Prey, is so fucking boring that it is completely unique and partially worthwhile. Its “claim to fame”, apart from making it on the video nasty list, is that it’s a regional horror film made in Portland (and the only one that I know of). In an interview, the director claims that he wanted to get away from the slasher movies of the time, instead being influenced by the Val Lewton films. I hope he was kidding.

Well, in a sense, the director was attempting to be subtle and suspenseful with the material. However, this is achieved by hamfistedly stretching the whole thing out. Just because nothing happens for awhile doesn’t mean that when something finally does happen, that it becomes more effective. The movie has to build to its various peaks.

What makes Unhinged unique is that it takes a nonsensical, stilted script and stretches it out further than any movie has been stretched out. In a normal slasher that has a ridiculous script full of holes, you don’t have too much time to dwell on anything before it moves on to something else. Unhinged reaches for transcendent stupidity, unfurling nonsense in a glacial, calculated fashion that partially obliterates time as we know it. Sort of like a black hole spruced up with gratuitous shower scenes.

No comments:

Post a Comment