Tuesday, September 7, 2010

THE UNSEEN (1980) - looks like Flounder is floundering as a post grad

here is a surprisingly effective trailer for the film, considering how long the long version feels

College hazing rituals are often remembered as being adventurous fun by those who managed to survive, but the fact remains that they can occasionally destroy lives. A pledge might be forced to run through Sea World wearing panties on his head, and, not being able to see where he is going, he accidentally falls into the shark tank. These pledge rituals that cause physical damage are the ones that usually get singled out, but unfortunately, no one ever talks about the mental damage that can result by such humiliating escapades (not to mention homoerotic).

An excellent example of a college student’s life destroyed by hazing is front and center in The Unseen. Here we have Flounder from Animal House, who suffered through much humiliation in his attempt to join a frat. Had he been part of a club that actually supported him and allowed his natural abilities to bloom, helping Flounder to flourish as it were, he might have graduated and gone on to great things, possibly as a great (though ironic) seafood chef. Instead, he has since become a psychotic mongoloid chained in the basement of a creepy house. Admittedly, he is a big reason why the house is so creepy, but still.

So, Barbara Bach is a reporter that tries to get a room at a fake Swedish village (it’s sorta like a Chinatown for Swedes) with two other females, but somebody screwed up the reservations at the fake Swedish hotel (the hotel is real, it’s svenkiness is not). They are forced to find whatever lodging is available, so they ask a creepy museum owner (aren’t they always) if he knows where they could find a room, and he agrees to hold them up at his own house. Frankly, I’m surprised these three hot chicks don’t immediately run for the hills. I guess they’re both desperate and professional, what with a deadline looming for a story about the Swedish village (the public apparently must be immediately informed of the various goings on there-in). Also, exploitation cinema would be a lot less interesting if hot chicks refused to explore decrepit houses.

The museum owner (Ernest) lives with his sad bastard of a wife (Virginia). She mopes in a chair while Ernest tip toes around, trying to catch these ladies in various states of undress. We get some spectacular nudity when the saucer eyed blonde takes a bath. I guess it’s readily apparent why he agreed to let these girls rent a room free of charge (this was pre-internet, after all). The other two girls leave to do their reporting, and she goes to sleep wearing a nightie (I guess she’s just a friend along for the ride). Shockingly, she gets pulled through the grating in the room, intercut with footage of a chicken being beheaded. I guess this shows how the heartless meat industry is akin to the slaughter of hot innocent chicks (they’re both “chicks”, after all). While final girl Barbara frolics with some dude, the other girl heads back to the house and suffers the same fate. This sets up the third act, where Barbara looks for her missing comrades in the basement, and instead finds the dude from Animal House wearing a diaper. Let’s just say that the plot is not one of those layered/interwoven/interlocking deals.

The film is basically Silent Scream’s inferior cousin (which I previously reviewed), with both films having been released the same year. Basically, several people stay in a creepy house, while a mysterious figure hidden deep within in it’s bowels stalks them. In turn, these films are slasher-esque variations on Crawlspace (1972) and Bad Ronald, both made for T.V. movies about black sheep (not literally) hiding in a house. Unfortunately, the main psychological conflict of the home owners doesn’t really prove interesting, as it never rises above them being sad and twitchy (respectively) about the 300 lb. secret in the basement. Also, Flounder doesn’t roam through the bowels of the house, through secret passages or anything. He just sits in the basement, so the suspense is completely minimal, unlike Silent Scream, which does strongly operate on the suspense level, taking it’s cues from Psycho.
There are two somewhat creepy scenes, the first murder and Bach’s search before finding Flounder, but the whole thing feels like a thirty minute horror episode stretched out. There is an air of oddness about the film, but also a lack of atmosphere and thrills. So, even though I ask that we become sympathetic towards Flounder and his ilk, those lives destroyed by fraternities, once he has become a mongoloid, he is mostly no longer interesting. You’re a stalker now, big boy, no matter how you got here, so just shut up and do your job. Also, please stop wearing a diaper. You’re a college graduate now, and that shit is upsetting.

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