Starring: Laurel Munson, J.E. Penner, Sarah Ansley
Director: Don Gronquist
Unhinged (1982) started out as a bet with some of his fellow Portland, Oregon filmmakers (among them Gus Van Sant, who helped scout for locations) that writer/director Don Gronquist could make a movie for under a $100,000, and it just about looks worth the money. Driving along rainy country roads to a music festival, a trio of pot-smoking hotties crash their car, get knocked unconscious and wake up bruised and shaken in an old dark house presided over by Edith (Virginia Settle), a dotty old lady with an aversion to men that dates back to some obscure decades-old family scandal, and Marion (J.E. Penner), her dried up, spinsterish daughter who scurries around at her beck and call.
After a hefty dose of Edith’s reminiscences, it comes as quite a relief when the girls discover that there’s a stalker outside. Frightened, they decide that one of them should attempt the hike to the nearest village, straight into the path of a killer with a scythe. Not that the main girl, Terry (Laurel Munson), seems unduly bothered when her friend never returns. After all, there are endless cups of tea on tap and it’s amazing how the time passes when Marion’s thundering out a Mozart sonata on the piano…
It’s all a bit lethargic and uneventful and the acting is mostly flat, but Unhinged at least has some decent aspirations and pleasant autumnal visuals, as well as intriguing themes to do with gender and identity, which culminate in a genuinely surprising twist. It also boasts a knockout main location – Portland’s Pittock Mansion, a grand folly in the form of a French chateau that was built by a local newspaper magnate in the early 1900s.
The DVD comes with both 16:9 and 4:3 ratio versions of the film. The latter is the one to watch – the picture seems more crisp and fresh, and it’s more complete than the 16:9, version, which crops Laurel Munson’s nude shower scenes below the waist. There’s also a very informative audio commentary by Gronquist which is excellent on the ins and outs of making a low-budget film. He talks about the process of getting investors on board, and about filming in the Pittock Mansion – apparently it cost them a mere $35 a day, but they had to shoot after closing hours. We also learn that the beady eyeball watching the girls shower belonged to the film’s cameraman, Richard Blakeslee.