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IndieDVD presents
Unhinged (1982)

"The more time I spend in this place, the less I like it."
- Terry (Laurel Munson)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: January 30, 2003

Stars: Laurel Munson, J.E. Penner
Other Stars: Virginia Steele, Sara Ansley
Director: Don Gronquist

MPAA Rating: R for (violence, nudity, language)
Run Time: 01h:19m:44s
Release Date: October 01, 2002
UPC: 802695001696
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C+ B-C+C+ C+

DVD Review

Unhinged is a 1982 semi-shocker that tries hard to follow in the bloody footsteps of a lot of truly great slasher films, though most people have probably never even heard of it. It did achieve a bit of notoriety in England where it was summarily banned, but outside of that skirmish this film pretty much vanished into the woodwork of celluloid history. I'm certain that genre fans will be glad that IndieDVD has revived Unhinged (I know that I was), at least as a curiosity if nothing else, because as an all-out slasher film it is mostly talk. The film is presented in what is called the "original uncensored version", which by today's standards now is relatively mild in terms of its violence and nudity levels.

The story itself follows a familiar enough setup for a film like this, whereby a trio of college age girls (led by Laurel Munson as Terry) head off to a rock concert, only to end up knocked unconscious during a car accident on a desolate country road in the midst of a thunderstorm. The girls wake to find themselves recovering in the isolated estate of weird spinster (and Miss Hathaway clone) Marion Penrose (J.E. Penner), and her equally weird invalid mother (Virginia Steele). To make matters a tad more inconvenient, the Penrose estate has no phone, and of course the storm has washed out all the roads.

The Penrose women try to offer up some friendly hospitality to the girls, but the pair are so strange that you just know it's a matter of time before some creepy happenings will begin (plus the cover art features a bloody head of one of the girls, so it's pretty much inevitable). The first real twinge of dysfunctional family-itis occurs during dinner, where the seemingly refined Momma Penrose occasionally drifts into a disturbing fugue state before dispensing with such welcoming outbursts as "Deny it, you slut!" Couple that with a mysterious guest house that is off-limits, disembodied heavy breathing, and plenty of horribly bad lightning effects, then you have the ingredients for a fairly decent premise for a slasher film.

Director Don Gronquist establishes his spooky premise quickly, with an undertone of potential danger and general unease. I always love a good twisted gothic family flick, but the problem is that there is little in the way of any actual slashing going on (there are only three girls, after all), so there's plenty of build up to be found here. It's even more unfortunate for those that haven't already seen Unhinged because IndieDVD ruins a couple of the big scenes by either featuring it on the cover, or worse yet, on the DVD options menu. Gronquist has to fill his film with a wealth of scenes featuring Terry sneaking around the big Penrose estate, without anything specifically scary happening, except for those sporadic run-ins with old lady Penrose and her rambling diatribes against the evils of men.

There is a lot of gratuitous shower-taking by Laurel Munson and fellow traveller Sara Ansley, and to compliment that, Unhinged has its share of some really stiff and stilted dialogue delivery, (especially from heroine Munson). The one-note deliveries are offset by a handful of campy chunks of hilarious vitriol from Virginia Steele as the wheelchair-bound head of the Penrose family, so combined with the lengthy shower scenes it is pretty much an even trade. The gaps in common sense and logic are immense and comical, such as when Munson's Terry sees a demented face outside her second-story window, causing her to run screaming down the stairs, only to admit mere seconds later that maybe she over-reacted. I know that I often have creepy, bearded faces appearing outside my second story window. Don't you?

Unhinged isn't a great slasher film by any means, but it has sections that are extremely entertaining, including a satisfying climax that almost make up for the lack of slasher action in the preceding 70 minutes.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Rationo

Image Transfer Review: The 1.33:1 full-frame transfer won't win any major restoration awards any time soon, as it is a grainy, dark print full of a large amount of nicks and is awash in generally faded colors. In short, this one looks every bit the low-budget early 1980s slasher movie that it is, and the image transfer looks as if it came from one poorly cared for source print.

Image Transfer Grade: C+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: IndieDVD has issued Unhinged with an English stereo track that is full of crackles and pops, and that sounds unfortunately worse than a lot of mono tracks I've heard. Dialogue is audible, but it has a very muffled, flat tone to it, though the prickly early-1980s synth score from Jon Newton is effectively jarring and shrill.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 30 cues and remote access
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Devil's Keep, Hellchild
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Brian Vandiver, Shannon Wheeler, Kim Morgan, Mike Prosser, David Walker
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Photo Gallery
Extras Review: Unhinged features a trend in commentaries that I hope won't be repeated too often, unless the quality of the content is greatly improved. This disc sports what is called a "comedy narration," done here by a group calling themselves The Detractors. The track features Oregon-based writers/wiseasses Brian Vandiver, Shannon Wheeler, Kim Morgan, Mike Prosser and David Walker, who are quick to admit that they have nothing whatsoever to do with the film. This is a lot like a homemade MST3K commentary, which isn't a horrible idea, except for the fact that the five end up mostly talking over each other as they try to interject witty comments about the film. Imagine sitting in a movie theater a few rows in front of a group of obnoxious screentalkers, and I think you'll get the idea. There were some occasionally funny barbs tossed out, but most of it was kind of dopey and juvenile.

Also included is an uneventful 1980 interview (05m:42s) with director Don Gronquist and actress J.E. Penner, taken from a segment of a local Oregon news show. Gronquist looks and sounds a little uncomfortable in the front of the camera, and the soft questions dished up by the interviewer are generic, at best. A set of 14 or so behind-the-scenes images make up the Photo Gallery section, and a pair of trailers (The Devil's Keep, Hellchild) is also provided.

The disc is cut into 30 chapters, and does not feature any subtitles.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

Unhinged is a nearly forgotten, little known deranged killer film of the genre, and while not as legendary or infamous as Last House on the Left, The Toolbox Murders, The Hills Have Eyes or even I Spit On Your Grave, it is most notable for having been banned in England. The story does show some great promise in its setup, and there are some genuinely creepy moments, but looking at it today, it seems strikingly tame and hardly "ban"-worthy.

Worth a rental for genre fans just for Virginia Steele's wacky, high-camp performance as the family matriarch, a woman who really knows to make some awkward dinner conversation.


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