But I'll be damned! As sure as Coffee is Caffeinated, there's a certain little surprise, twist ending, just hiding down a certain character's pants. Here's the thing, though: Sleepaway Camp is considered a braided rip off of Friday the 13th, which is only somewhat fair, and no one seems to mention this in the same breath as Unhinged (a flick mostly known for having been banned in England... which doesn't sound all that hard, really). However, Unhinged was nearly complete, and being shopped around in 1980, around two full years before its theatrical release, and a full three before 1983's Sleepaway Camp camped out at the Box Office. Being an Oregonian Indie, not a New Yorker, like its sleepy rival, Unhinged evolved on its own. Similarly all reports lead to Sleepaway Camp's creation prior to Unhinged's debut. It's possible that this was a rip off, it's possible that this is mere serendipity, and it's possible that the percentage of Americans, Angels, Animals, Aliens and Atlanteans who are actually going to give two shits one way or the other is so damned small that it wasn't worth the burned calories I spent in writing the above two paragraphs.
Anyway, I have to give barely-articulate director Don Gronquist at least a butter pat of credit for first breaking through the Independent Barrier in the Organic state of Oregon (hardly "Hollywood II"), and getting a film even released in more than one country to be banned (in England's case Unhinged was banned as one of the infamous Video Nasties). Also for delivering a splatter flick packed with somewhat convincing blood and gore and some un-self-consciously smile-inducing nude scenes from some early 80's Oregonian hotties.
Our three leads don't look like sculpted swim suit models, but real girls, whom you may have lusted after on the Cheerleading squad in High School. I dozed off at one point, but sat bolt upright with eyes wide when the second shower scene rolled around. Alas, alack, these are mere links in an overall rusty chain that is Unhinged, which comes off as part Bluebeard, part Sleepaway Camp, part Psycho and all garbage. Nancy (Sara Ansley) drives her two hot friends, Terry (Laurel Munson) and Gloria (Barbara Lusch) out to some Jazz Festival in Oregon (which, as we all know, are ubiquitous in the natural state), traveling over the river and through the woods and into the Grand-Mammy of all sink holes!
Luckily a Guido named (wonder why they thought of THIS name) Norman Barnes (John Morrison, who actually worked again after this), pulls them from the wreckage of their minor fender bender and puts them up in a creepy old mansion in the woods. Deep in the woods. Deep, Deep, Deep in the woods.
This movie had to get a little bit of depth from SOMEWHERE.
But the house the girls wake up in has no phone, no path back to civilization and no sane people in the whole place. When the girls meet J.E. Penner's Marion Penrose they think she might be crazy. But then they meet her mother, played by Virginia Settle (who belonged in Community Theatre, but decided to settle for this P.O.S.). Mother Penrose redefines "Crazy" for the girls to the point that after a little while Marion seems, by comparison, to be the only one who's got any sense. Sort of like how James Carville seems like a madman, until you hear Mary Matalin's rebuttal.
It isn't long before a strange man is heard, and possibly seen around the house, and a killer with a grim reaper complex starts to terrorize the bored boarders at the mansion that makes Fulci's House by the Cemetery seem like a nice idea for a timeshare. This is kicked into 10th gear when Nancy decides to hoof it over to the next town to phone home like an Aerobicized E.T. (but not before she and Terry take a quick shower together... Beep Beep ZIP ZANG!).
This isn't what I'd call a good movie, or even a passable movie, really. Although Gronquist and his co-writer Reagan Ramsey planned on bringing back some of the suspense of the films that it liberally steals from, instead what we get is a lot of splashing blood, some pretty good nudity, and a cheap thrill or three... in short, gratuities. I will grant that some of the gore effects were convincing, especially considering the budget, and the ideas that come to fruition in the last reel could be surprising, especially when seen upon release. I'm not sure what was in this that really caused England's BBFC to ban it from the shelves, but let's face it... under old Margaret's purview, all KINDS of things were bushel-loads of offensive at the time.
Honestly, even with the concessions I'm making here, Unhinged should really be slammed, and we have the approximate redeeming qualities of an episode of TV's Automan. And just like an "Ottoman" is a Turk, on this site a Turkey is a Dog, and as much as I'd really like to be a little more generous here, I simply cannot. Unhinged gets a Dog, and I'm pretty sure the "Hinge" of the Title is on the Doggy Door after watching this. I have to wonder how much of this felt like it was going to be "gold" to its film makers. You can see how even in the worst-edited moments, Gronquist pauses in his direction to really give a scene its proper punctuation. Like we really need to see Grandma zone out to know she's a few animals short of a zoo. If he really needed to linger on something, why wasn't it the shower scene? In fact, why wasn't the whole movie the Shower Scene? Three hot chicks have tickets to a Jazz Fest, decide to shower together, decide they like showering together and spend the next 80 minutes showering together instead of going to a concert. Then nobody has to die, Marion and Momma remain as isolated as a liberal in congress, and we don't have to figure out which came first, the sausage or the egg in the early-'80's slasher Crying Games. Make Lesbian Love, not war. Okay, then, time to hit the road! I've got Joe Satriani Tickets waiting for me... but I think I'll take a quick shower first. Any takers?