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!]

Splatter University

splatter_university_posterNot to be confused with Murder University (for which regular readers of this site would be forgiven), Splatter University features a doctor getting stabbed in the crotch in the first two minutes (although the thrust doesn’t even breach his underwear, which is probably made out of the same material as an airplane’s black box).

A 1984 slasher directed by Richard W. Haines, who did the weirdly compelling Charles Kaufman Troma pic Mother’s Day, Splatter University follows the exploitative exploits of none other than an escaped mental patient.

And it’s not like anyone’s ever seen that before.

The knife-wielding loon proceeds to roam the hallowed halls of St. Trinians University, the confines of which looking less like an institute of higher learning and more like somewhere you’d register for a parking permit or start up a telemarketing scheme spearheaded by Alec Baldwin.

At Trinians, a very young Julie Parker who’s graduated cum laude (in what, it’s not stated) has accepted a role as faculty in the Sociology Department. If there’s any discipline that would accept someone with questionable qualifications, it’s that one.

And there’s a rumor going around that the newly-minted Professor Parker’s lecture hall…is “jinxed,” something that the school’s monsignors are reluctant to discuss. You see, the previous guest lecturer’s tenure was “cut” short.

splatter_university_movie

I hate to break it to you, but Trinian isn’t even a real saint!

In true 80s slasher fashion, there’s a lecher (Tony), a dumb frat guy who’s selling mid-term answers for $10 bucks a pop (Johnny Boy), lots of red herrings, and sassy language galore.

However, the nudity that can usually be counted to liven things up during dull narrative stretches is replaced here by denim rump-shaking rockabilly music.

As the body count increases (mostly… yawn…cutaway kills), Professor Parker and her students can’t find a safe space.

Splatter University comes alive for a few minutes with a score that occasionally sounds a lot like the exemplary Troma vetsploitation, Combat Shock, but otherwise, this is weak tea by even low slasher boom standards.

*1/2 (out of 5)