Unhinged

Radio dispatch exposition is a classic hoary film staple, second only to the spinning newspaper headline for shoving a plot forward.

In Unhinged, three college girls’ raunchy joke road trip banter is interrupted. Turns out, an escaped lunatic is on the loose. Back to “traffic and weather together on the 1s,” Led Zeppelin deep cuts and Morning Zoo blather.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, what was once balmy weather turns into a Gothic downpour, and slick precipitation pushes their little sedan into a ditch, accompanied by a burping synth score.

When they wake up, they’re being tended to by a battleaxe matriarch, her spinster Virginia Woolf tight-hair bun daughter, and their creepy manservant.

They’re forced to convalesce, and unfortunately their new sprawling mansion accommodations do not include a phone.

Later that evening, in a Lovecraftian gale-force, all the girls are treated to a dinner hosted by the matriarch, a proper finishing school Barbara Bush-styled ball-buster.

What do you get when you cross Mrs. Doubtfire with a former First Lady of the United States? This evil matriarch

So far so good, and the girls (Nancy, Gloria and Terry) make arrangements to notify the proper authorities in the morning and to get their car fixed. 

As she’s preparing to turn for the evening Terry finds a tooth under her bed, and more ominously, hears grunts and heavy breathing from nearby.

It’s the leering psycho-sexual elements that put Unhinged (1982) on the infamous Video Nasties list, although the rest of the film isn’t nearly that explicit.

Made for next to nothing (and a regional horror from the Pacific Northwest), Unhinged is an odd duck indeed. There are a few sleepy-eyed performances and more padding than an NFL locker room, but more importantly…there’s also gobs of atmosphere, a fun plot, a terrific soundtrack and a whiz-bang denouement.

Who knew?

***1/2 (out of 5)

[Check out our Really Awful Movies Podcast discussion of Unhinged!]

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