‘What is the proper wine for a public execution?’
Unhinged is the cinematic equivalent of taking ketamine and then falling down a well.
It begins as it means to carry on – with a vast chasm of nothingness. After the director’s credit, the screen remains pitch black for a full fifty seconds before the movie properly starts. Seeing as how the film barely scrapes 80 minutes, I can only assume that this is a desperate ploy to boost Unhinged to a feature length running time. Oh, but I wish they hadn’t bothered.
Unhinged follows the boring misadventures of three girls on their way to a music festival. It’s unclear what festival they’re going to, but judging from the awful psychedelic rock they play in the car, I’d venture they’re on their way back in time to Woodstock. Luckily for everyone, the car crashes (well, rolls off the road) and they wake up to find themselves in a creepy old house. I say creepy, but it’s really more of a nice stately home that you would visit whilst on holiday with your parents.
The build up to the crash is one of the best parts of the film, as the girls drive for several minutes through attractive woodland scenery, with occasional cutaways to a helicopter shot(!). In the background, ominous rhythmic synthesiser music plays, aping John Carpenter to a respectable degree.
Then everything turns to shit.
We get our first awkward dinner scene, and our first lengthy monologue from Marion, who lives in the mansion with her domineering mother. It’s almost impossible to pay attention during this scene, and when it ends and one of the characters says ‘The more time I spend in this joint, the less I like it,’ I find myself nodding vigorously in agreement.
This is followed by a girl wandering in the dark for a while, then another dinner scene, another monologue and another wandering in the dark scene. The repetition is mind numbing, as time itself seems to erode around you. How long have you been watching the film? An hour? Three days? Can this really be another monologue? It’s like Mardi Gras Massacre, without the gore, boobs and propulsive disco music.
The actresses sound like English is their second language and they’re reading the lines phonetically. Nothing makes any sense. The village doctor claims that some women have recently ‘turned up missing,’ a phrase that makes absolutely zero sense. Marion talks the girls out of walking to the village because it’s so far away. Three miles! That’s an hours walk, tops. And my goodness, turn some fucking lights on, please! Even on the DVD I watched, it’s impossible to see what’s happening most of the time.
Eventually, the film reveals itself as a Psycho wannabe, with a voyeuristic cross dresser murdering the girls. Of course, this being the early 80s, he spies on two women showering together. Isn’t progress a wonderful thing? It’s almost worth sticking with for a great moment of herky-jerky slo mo near the end as our bland lead discovers a gruesome charnel house of body parts in the shed, but by then it’s too late.
Instead of watching Unhinged, I would suggest the following – invite an old person round to your house, make them dinner and then switch off all the lights. At least then, while sitting in the dark in a confused and bewildered state, you’ll be able to enjoy the hearty meal you’ve made rather than simply looking at your watch and wondering what you’re doing with your life, as I did throughout Unhinged.