Unhinged is a 1982 American exploitation slasher film directed by Don Gronquist, written by Gronquist and Reagan Ramsey, and starring Laurel Munson and J. E. Penner. The film follows three young women who are taken in by a mysterious family at their rural mansion after getting into a car accident. It was filmed in Portland, Oregon, using interiors and exteriors of Pittock Mansion.
|Directed by||Don Gronquist|
|Produced by||Don Gronquist|
|Written by||Don Gronquist|
J. E. Penner
|Music by||Jon Newton|
|Edited by||Phillips Blair|
|Distributed by||Megastar Films|
|79 min (uncut)|
A remake of the film was made in England and released in 2017.
Three college students Terry, Nancy and Gloria, leave for a music festival in fictional town of Pinewood, Oregon. A thunderstorm begins to appear, when Nancy, speeding down the road, accidentally crashes the car. Terry awakes to find her and her friends alive, sheltered in a large mansion in the middle of nowhere, owned by the Penroses: Marion and her mother, and their groundskeeper, Norman. Gloria is the only one with serious injuries, so Marion suggests that they spend the night until Gloria is able to leave with them. Terry and Nancy are invited to dinner, with Marion and her embittered and elderly crippled mother. Throughout dinner, Marion's mother rants and raves about her disgust toward men, and how her husband left her for another woman. Later, in a music room, a mysterious man looks menacingly into the windows at the women.
Later that night, Terry finds a human tooth under her bed, and later awakes to hear a man breathing heavily upstairs, as though he is masturbating. The next morning, Terry and Nancy take a shower, while someone watches through a peep hole in the wall. That morning, Nancy sets off through the woods to reach town. When she arrives at a rural country road, she is attacked by an unknown figure with a long scythe, who slashes her to death. That evening at dinner, Mrs. Penrose's divulges her views on men and her daughter, while Terry worries about Nancy's absence. That night, Terry once again hears the breathing, and goes to see who it is, finding an abandoned room with black and white pictures of two children, and an old tool belt with a dusty gun and machete. She goes back downstairs, and sees the man staring in at her through window, and runs screaming through the house. Marion calms her down and reveals to her that the man is Carl, her younger brother who has the mind of a five-year-old, and being abandoned by their mother. She insists that he is harmless, and Terry goes back to bed.
The next day, Terry goes outside to talk to Norman, and asks if he's seen Nancy. Norman reveals that he never spoke with Mrs. Penrose and tells her the story of two girls disappearing in the woods. At nightfall, Gloria regains her consciousness, and Terry tells her she feels the two need to leave as soon as possible. Terry leaves the room, and an unseen figure attacks Gloria, plunging an axe through her head. Later in the evening, Terry finds Gloria's room empty, and asks Marion where she is. Marion suggests she may have gone outside for a breath of fresh air. As she steps outside, Terry is then attacked and then chased by Carl. She hides in a shed, where she discovers the dead bodies of her friends along with several other dismembered corpses. Carl breaks through the window and tries to grab her, but she manages to escape from the shed and runs back to the house as Carl chases after her.
Hurrying into the abandoned room, Terry takes out the gun and shoots Carl in the head, killing him. Marion runs upstairs after hearing the noises, gives the questions to her frantically about killing her brother and Terry shouts her to go look in the shed. After a moment of silence, Marion, now with a masculine voice, tells her that Carl had nothing to do with what happened in the shed. Terry looks up at Marion in confusion, who pulls out a machete. It is revealed that Marion is actually Mrs. Penrose's secondary son and Carl's younger brother, being dressed as a woman. Terry attempts to flee, but Marion knocks her into the ground and brutally hacks her to death with the machete as he raves about having to pretend to be a girl, having to take care of his brother, and of how he had to kill all of the girls. After Terry's dead, Mrs. Penrose calls for Marion downstairs, asking if he had a man up there. Marion, covered in blood and in the feminine voice, answers: "No, mother..." as the screen fades to black.
- Laurel Munson as Terry Morgan
- Sara Ansley as Nancy Paulson
- Janet Penner (as 'J.E Penner') as Marion Penrose
- Virginia Settle as Mrs. Penrose
- Barbara Lusch as Gloria
- John Morrison as Norman Barnes
- Bill Simmonds as Carl Penrose
With a $100,000 budget, Unhinged was filmed on location by cinematographer Richard Blakeslee at the Pittock Mansion in Portland, Oregon, with additional photography in Forest Park. It was shot dusk through dawn, over 19 consecutive nights. According to director Gronquist, local filmmaker Gus Van Sant assisted as a location scout for the production. Because Pittock Mansion is a tourist attraction and city property, the film had to be shot overnights from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m.
The cast was made up entirely of Portland locals, including stage actresses Janet Penner and Virginia Settle as Marion and Mrs. Penrose; Sara Ansley, who portrayed Nancy, was a model whom Gronquist had found through a talent agency.
In a retrospective review of the film, Blumhouse wrote of the film: "The main issue for most viewers is going to be the film’s rather leisurely pace; the filmmakers apparently attempted to position Unhinged as more psychological thriller than chop-em-up slasher, but instead of slowly building tension and suspense, the script frequently leaves the characters lounging around with nothing much to do except talk and sleep (both of which they do a lot). A tighter edit might have helped speed things along, but considering the film’s ultra-lean runtime of under 80 minutes, I’m not sure that would have even been possible."
In his book Nightmare Movies: Horror on Screen Since the 1960s, film journalist Kim Newman was critical of the film, calling it a "sickle-slicker slasher so inept that the clapperboard can twice be discerned in the grey murk during a slow fade." In Scott Aaron Stine's The Gorehound's Guide to Splatter Films of the 1980s, he writes of the film: "Although not a bad film, Unhinged is exceptionally slow; the abundance of talking heads actually slackens much of the suspense and tension the film strives to generate. And despite some wonderful plot twists—the above average shock ending is a pleasant surprise—the scriptwriting rarely rises above that of pulp horror, derivative of such films as Three on a Meathook (1973)."
Although the British Board of Film Classification had passed the film uncut for UK cinemas in 1983, the U.K. Director of Public Prosecutions retroactively banned the video release, placing Unhinged on its list of 72 "video nasties", which violated the Obscene Publications Act (as amended in 1977). Unlike other films on that list, the film's few murders were suggested (by sprays of blood) rather than explicitly depicted, and featured few scenes of nudity.
The film premiered on VHS through CBS/Fox Video in 1983. It was later released uncut on DVD in 2004 with an '18' certificate in the United Kingdom. It was also released in the United States in 2005 by Brentwood Home Video. It was released again by Code Red DVD in 2012 as a double feature disc with Murder Run (1983), a film produced by Gronquist; this edition was limited to only 500 copies.
The film was released in a remastered DVD in the United Kingdom by 88 Films in 2014.
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- Barton, Steve (February 17, 2017). "New Remake: Unhinged". Dread Central. Retrieved October 9, 2017.
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- "Unhinged". The Grindhouse Cinema Database. Retrieved October 19, 2016.
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- "Unhinged (1982)". TV Guide. CBS Interactive Inc. Retrieved October 22, 2016.
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- "Film-video festival opens today". Statesman Journal. Salem, Oregon. August 12, 1983. p. 3B – via Newspapers.com.
- Burkart, Gregory (April 19, 2016). "Slashback! Beyond Reason, Beyond Help: 1982's Banned and Baffling UNHINGED". Blumhouse. Retrieved October 22, 2016.
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- Cook, Scott and Aimee Wade. PDXccentric: An Odyssey of Portland Oddities. Slough Biscuit Press. ISBN 978-0-979-92327-2.
- Gronquist, Don (2012). Unhinged (DVD). Code Red.
- Newman, Kim (2011). Nightmare Movies: Horror On Screen Since the 1960s. Bloomsbury Press, USA. ISBN 978-1-408-80503-9.
- Stine, Scott Aaron (2003). The Gorehound's Guide to Splatter Films of the 1980s. McFarland. ISBN 978-0786415328.