Directed by Don Gronquist
Produced by Don Gronquist
Written by Don Gronquist & Reagan Ramsey
Director of Photograpy Richard Blakeslee
Music by Jon Newton
Cast: Laurel Munson, J.E. Penner, Sara Ansley & Virginia Settle
Full-frame/English/USA/NTSC Region 1
Review from the IndieDVD DVD
Ah, the twist ending. It's become a staple of horror films and in the hands of the right creative mind, can be a great tool. But, what if you come up with a great twist ending, but can't think of a decent beginning or middle? UNHINGED is such a film, an early 80s slasher flick which is now available on DVD.
UNHINGED opens with three friends, Terry (Laurel Munson), Nancy (Sara Ansley), and Gloria (Barbara Lusch), driving to a "rock festival". (Why are people always going to things like that in these movies?) When a rainstorm hits, their car skids off the road. They are rescued by a man named Norman (John Morrison), who takes them to a local estate occupied by Mrs. Penrose (Virginia Settle) and her spinster daughter Marion (J.E. Penner). Gloria was slightly injured in the wreck and must stay in bed, as Terry and Nancy get to know the Penrose's. Despite the fact that the mansion is large and oppulent, it has no telephone, so the girl's can't go for a tow truck. They also learn that the nearest town is only accessible by a two-mile hike through the woods. So, they decide to stay the night. (Of course.) As their visits wears on, the girls learn that Mrs. Penrose is very eccentric and doesn't allow men in the house because the immoral activities of her late husgand have caused her to hate men. They also witness the way that Mrs. Penrose torments the seemingly benign Marion. The spooky house gets even spookier when Terry becomes convinced that someone else is lurking throughout the house. And when the muders begin, Terry must try to learn the secrets of the Penrose mansion.
UNHINGED is the epitome of the kind of pointless, lifeless slasher films which littered video stores in the early 80s. I can still remember watching these movies as a young teen and thinking, "Why doesn't anything ever happen?" But, back then the thrill of watching an R-rated film made the experience worthwhile. Now, that I'm older, I see just how boring these films really are. Even with the occasional splash of nudity or gore, most of these films are exercises in tedium. Which leads us back to UNHINGED, one of the most boring slasher films that I've ever seen. Made by a local group in Oregon, UNHINGED makes a play for acceptability by having an impressive location (the mansion) and a few gory murders. But, the film also contains sub-porn caliber acting (watch as Munson's mouth hangs open as she waits for someone to yell "action") and enough establishing shots of the mansion to make one wonder if they'd accidentally tuned into the Real Estate Channel. Also, the beginning of the film contains a full 5-minutes of footage of the girl's car winding through country roads. And the "trapped in the isolated house with some crazies" idea isn't exactly new. But, the twist ending is really good. I'm still ashamed that I didn't see it coming. But, then again, but the end, I'd given up on the film actually delivering anything. It's safe to assume that writer/director/producer Don Gronquist came up with a small story with a great ending and tried to build a feature-film around it. UNHINGED would have made a great 20-minute short, but as a feature-film, UNHINGED is unwatchable.
After years of wallowing in obscurity, UNHINGED is now available on DVD from IndieDVD. The film is presented on this DVD in a full-frame format. (It's impossible to ascertain what the movie's original aspect ratio was.) It's very clear that this transfer was taken from a theatrical print of the film, as it display many defects from this source material, such as scratches, white & black spots, and the occasional "cigarette burn" in the top right-hand corner. Surprisingly, the picture shows only a fine sheen of grain and the colors look pretty good, although some scenes are slightly washed out. However, the darker scenes are too dark, and it can be hard to make out the action. On a weird note, there is a very long pause between Chapter 21 and 22, which made me think that someone was turning over the laserdisc. The stereo audio track on the DVD is a mess. In fact, I couldn't get my receiver to process it in anyway that was audible, so I had to watch the DVD on a stereo TV. Hissing from this track is audible throughout the film, and the dialogue is quite muffled at times. But, the music, which is so loud and intrusive that it would make Goblin blush, is extremely forceful here.
The DVD contains a few extras, if one can get past the two menus which give away two of the film's murders. There is a still gallery which contains production and behind-the-scenes stills from UNHINGED. There is a 6-minute interview with director Don Gronquist and star J.E. Penner taken from a 1980 Portland, Oregon TV show called "Live at Noon". And finally, there is the "comedy" commentary, which features five writers/filmmakers who attempt to make fun of the film. I put comedy in quotations, because this commentary isn't funny, and I'm sure that you and your friends could come up with better jokes than this poor-man's MST3K.
While UNHINGED may be an unfamiliar title to many horror fans, it did gain some notoriety as being one of the titles which was banned in England as a "video nasty". This fact is played up in the DVD's advertising, but don't let this boasting fool you. This movie needs to be banned, but not because it's a "video nasty"...
This Film Features:
Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2003. ©