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First Look Review - UNHINGED

unhinged remake review
Remake of the 1982 'Video Nasty'.







Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Dan Allen

Starring: Kate Lister, Lucy-Jane Quinlan, Becky Fletcher, Lorena Andrea

unhinged remake poster

The early 1980s was a legendary time for British horror fans. The dawn of home video meant that weird genre fare, which would otherwise never have made it as far as the high-street cinema, was suddenly available, and, as a consequence of this boom, this decade was also the era of the ‘video nasty’, wherein a significant number of horror films were actually banned by a government body. An exciting time indeed: here was a list of 72 films which The Man believed to be so gory and unpleasant that it was illegal to watch them! A blood red rag for horror fans, then, who saw the nasties as a have-you-seen checklist, and sought out forbidden fruit such as Zombie Flesh Eaters on the burgeoning black market. To have lived through that time! A halcyon era, indeed, and formative too, as the moral panic probably did more to consolidate the genre as anything else; watching horror became an act of transgression, and sharing and discussing the DPP’s films created a fervent fan community. Any horror fan worth his or her salt will have slogged their way through this list, and enjoyed its (suspect, variable) pleasures as a badge of bloody honour.


unhinged remake

Perhaps Dan Allen (writer, along with Scott Jeffrey, and director) was one of these hardy horror souls: I can’t think of any other reason why he would want to remake 1982’s rather pedestrian video nasty Unhinged, a flick which Kerekes and Slater’s See No Evil (the greatest book ever written on the topic of nasties, and there’s been a few) dismisses as a ‘relatively mindless, mercifully short, piece of shlock entertainment’. The original film was itself a confused rip off of Psycho (zzzz) in the first instance, but Allen’s new film does at least update the plot from the original’s group of young-women-on-their-way-to-a-music-festival to today’s hen-party-that-knock-over-and-kill-a-rapist dynamic. The girls still, bizarrely, hole up in a creepy house where a mad old bat lives though, but only because they’ve run out of petrol (they’ve put the body of the rapist in the boot of their little Corsa). And then, finally, just like in the original, a few of them get killed to death by a nutcase in fancy dress. Allen’s film also relocates the action from American backwoods to the English countryside; gone is the muddy murk of Unhinged ’82’s mise-en-scene, and instead is the green, leafy space of Essex. However pretty the location may be though, this choice of setting does throw up some sticky plot holes for any British viewers. We’re uncomfortably aware that the English back lanes are simply not the sprawling wilderness of cross state boondocks, and thus the sense of dislocation which is so integral to lost-in-the-woods slashers just isn’t there, even though three of our four heroines are American (well, not actually, they’re all British/Australian actors putting on an accent, which I didn’t realise until after I’d watched the film and read up on it - respect is due!).


unhinged remake

Of course, only the most joyless pendant watches a slasher film expecting coherent and credible narratives, but Unhinged ’17’s leaps of logic become almost surreal in their lack of relation to recognisable human behaviour. I still don’t get why the girls, after knocking over a thug who is attempting to rape one of their number, throw the corpse in the boot - I’m no criminal mastermind, but if you were in a rush to get to a wedding, why not leave the body there? You’re apparently miles away from civilisation anyway, and transporting a cadaver is only going to cause you more problems in the long term: it stands to reason. The body-in-the-trunk bears little relation to the slasher situation proper anyway, apart from the girls’ hilarious attempts to bury the body within the grounds of the house where they eventually hide out - there is an absurd moment where one of them manages to dig a grave in about 10 minutes flat without breaking a sweat: they need to do it quickly because the mad woman who runs the house has only popped out. And, look, I don’t mean to stereotype, but a group of young women embarking upon a hen weekend are going to be rinsing insta, snapchat, facebook; yet mobile phones are conspicuous by their absence, heightening the improbability of the situation (when it all goes to shit later on in the film, the bride to be does ring her fiancĂ© to apologise that she’s going late for their impending nuptials, but neglects to say why; so much for ‘for better or for worse’). The girls are a likeable bunch mind, and two have a budding romantic relationship all of their own, which is nice (put in for character development purposes I’m sure, and not AT ALL for the purpose of cheap titillation), but it is hard to credit them with being vulnerable. Before they get to the house they’ve literally killed a rapist and are carrying the body around with them - that’s some gangster shit right there! One of them is so hard she banged out a 2 x 8 foot grave in the time it takes most people to have a shower! Laurie Strode, eat your heart out.


unhinged remake

In comparison to the relative gloss of American/Canadian counterparts, there’s something of an automatic grit which British slashers seem to have as a matter of course (I’m thinking of such mean spirited provincial classics as Eden Lake), and which Unhinged ’17 benefits from too. The matrimonial theme contributes to the iconic look of the film’s antagonist, who is creepy AF in their flowing wedding dress, weird baldy mask and (in an odd detail which I adored) elbow length rubber gloves. These scenes - the beautifully oblique shots, the lurching weirdness - when this nutcase shows up are simply sublime in their strange nature. However, this visual craftmanship is not consistent with the script’s discrepancies. True to the eventual, anti-climactic truth of most of the DPP’s list, the original Unhinged is notable only for its enforced notoriety: remaking what was ultimately a prosaic movie perhaps proves to be Unhinged ‘17’s undoing. There isn’t much to work with within the template of such an archaic and generic offering, and while any innovation Allen does bring to the table is interesting and effective, it is in the end held back by an unfortunate marriage to its uninspiring predecessor’s legacy.

Unhinged will be released on DVD by 88 Films September 25th.



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