Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Cocaine Bear (2023)


RATED R  1hr35min

Starring Keri Russell, Alden Ehrenreich & O'Shea Jackson Jr.

Directed by Elizabeth Banks

    Oh dear sweet Baby Cthulhu, what in the hell did I just watch?  Well, I'll tell you...I just watched a black bear do a line of coke off of a leg that she just severed from a wildlife specialist that was hiding up a tree. Unfortunately for him, he was covered in cocaine, which the bear was addicted to. I watched that same bear chase down and ambulance and mutilate the crew and patient to the tune of Depeche Mode's "Just Can't Get Enough".

    COCAINE BEAR is exactly what you think it is, and also far better than you are probably expecting it to be.  I've heard lots of comparisons to SNAKES ON A PLANE, which I really don't understand. Sure they're both killer animal flicks based on a ridiculous premise...SNAKES ON A PLANE being about poisonous serpents being unleased on an airliner to kill a key witness to a murder.  I mean, honestly there's not an easier way to silence someone?  You're going to essentially try and take down a whole BOEING 747 to get one guy?  That seems horrible inefficient to me...also horribly risky.  COCAINE BEAR on the other hand is about a bear that ingests a shitload of cocaine that has been tossed out of an airplane by drug runners with the intent of collecting it afterwards.  I mean...bother involve planes. Both involve deadly animals. Lots of people die in both. Other than that....I got nothin'.

    There are quite a few excellent performances in his one. First and foremost, Aaron Holiday was fantastic as young punk Stache. Clearly meant as comedy relief counterpart to Alden Ehrenreich's Eddie, he's got great comedic timing and more than once reminded me of Dax Shepard.  Keep your eye on this kid, I think he's got a bright future. Margo Martindale is hilarious as Ranger Liz, an overly horny and slightly incompetent park ranger. Finally, Christian Convery as Henry, best friend to Dee Dee...they are two 10 - 12 year old kids who are in the forest while playing hookie from school and have an encounter with the titular beast. Finally, the great Ray Liotta, who we sadly lost in 2022, gives his final performance as Syd White, whose job it was to retrieve the cocaine.

Speaking of excellence, Elizabeth Banks absolutely nailed the direction of this film, perfectly balancing the comedy and gore. She also does a fantastic job of recreating the 80's without overt product placement or bashing you over the head with pop-culture references.  It is a film that just happens to take place in that time period, but it doesn't define the film.  This could just as easily take place in 2023 with a few minor tweaks.

This is one hell of a fun ride. And while nobody delivered a line that was close to "I have had it with this motherfucking bear on motherfucking cocaine!", it still has some great one liners, some hilariously ridiculous set pieces and the above mentioned solid performances. I think COCAINE BEAR is going to be part of the cinematic lexicon from here on out. 

Alllllrighty....let's run the Midnight Cinephile Tallies!

BLOOD & GORE:   Is there gore?  Does a bear do cocaine in the woods?  I think we both know the answer to this!  The gore and effects are very well done and on the plus side, I would say that 95% of the gore is practical effects!  WOOT!

ALIENS, MONSTERS & MADMEN:  For the price of admission, you get one cocaine addicted black bear with a taste for human!  Yum!

T&A:  The closest your going to get to some T&A in this one is Margo Martindale's butt cheek showing through her pants after her first encounter with the bear.  There's also some flesh missing off ties in with the blood & gore....

FINAL THOUGHTS:   This flick is just plain fun. It reminds me of the heyday of nature run amok films, with a few winks and nods to the genre.  This ain't your Daddy's killer bear flick, that's for sure!

Sunday, April 16, 2023

Renfield (2023)

This has been a truly special weekend for me. 

First of all, I launched Midnight Cinephile again and I've been getting the most wonderful comments from folks welcoming me back. Honestly and truly, I would like to say "Thank You!" from the bottom of my heart.  I truly feel like I've come back home.

Along those same sentiments, this entire weekend has had a certain feel to it that I was unable to put words to for pretty much the entire duration of it. A certain warmth (besides the unusual heat for early April!) has been festering inside my chest. It was not until this afternoon when we were leaving the theater watching the very same film about to be reviewed, that it finally hit me right between the eyes what the feeling was. 

I finally feel like my life is righting course. After so long, I felt like I was finally turning back into me again....and let me tell you something:  I've missed me.  But there's plenty of time for self reflection later, right now we've got a film to review!  Let's do this thing!


Rated R - 1hr 33min

Starring Nicholas Cage, Awkwafina & Nicholas Hoult 

Directed by Chris McKay

    Let me just start this review by saying that there is a certain action sequence that takes place about midway through the film that I have been waiting for my entire life. Light spoilers ahead so if you don't want to know ANYTHING about the film before watching, skip the rest of this paragraph.  I'll wait. Okay, you still here?  Groovy.  ******  There is an action sequence in which I literally watched a man rip off another man's arms and not only beat him to death with them, but also several other people as well!  He also does something else with the arms but you're just going to have to watch to find out what!  ******

    Robert Montague Renfield (Hoult)  was a lawyer who travelled to Transylvania to facilitate a real estate deal with Count Dracula (Cage). As I'm sure you are aware, he falls under the vampires spell and spends the rest of his existence doing his evil master's bidding. That is the story that we are all familiar (see what I did there?) with. This film takes a much deeper look at the character and just what it means to serve the Prince of Darkness...the toll it takes on your soul and your sanity.  Did I mention this is also a comedy?

    We follow Renfield and Dracula to modern times in the U.S. living in an abandoned hospital.  Dracula got himself pretty fucked up after a run in with some vampire hunters and (as always) Renfield must tend to him and nurse him back to health by supplying fresh victims. The thing is...he's tired of sending innocent people to their deaths, so he starts attending a self help group for people in toxic relationships. As he listens to these poor souls work out their demons, he finds their toxic counterparts and takes them to his master for feeding. Dracula is less than pleased with the...shall we say....less than pure stock of blood being supplied to him.

    Meanwhile, a local crime family is causing massive problems for the law abiding citizens and officer Rebecca Quincy (Awkwafina) has had enough.  Her father was murdered at the hands of the vile Lobo crime family, some of the police force is crooked and on the take and she doesn't know who she can trust.  She shows up at a joint called Mulates, which looks like it has a very New Orleans/Voodoo kinda vibe to it.  In short, I wish it was real place. Just so happens that Renfield is there, searching for victims (there a table full of nuns AND a school bus full of cheerleaders just dropped in too!) and feeling quite sorry for himself.  When he see's Quincy stand up to the son of the crime boss, Renfield is inspired.  Perhaps he doesn't have to live in Dracula's shadow any longer.

    Long story short, Renfield and Quincy take out quite a few members of the Lobo Crime Syndicate. Renfield starts taking steps toward recovery from his own toxic relationship, starting with a new wardrobe and a studio apartment of his very own.  Could there be some romance brewing between him and Quincy?  Could be but there's not going to be much to for that because this is after all an action-horror-comedy.  Shit goes sideways.  Of course it does. I'm not going to go any further with plot....just the set up.

    Renfield absolutely delivers on everything it promises and actually quite a bit more.  I was expecting to be entertained by the film, but I was surprised by HOW entertained I was.  Universal decided to put it into an April slot, but I think that this could have easily held it's own during summer blockbuster season. Well, let me walk that back a wee bit.  It could hold up to most summer blockbuster seasons...maybe not against the likes of  Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny and Transformers: Rise of the Beasts...those are pretty heavy hitters.  But still.....I think it would have done just fine. I think that Renfield is going to find itself a cult following quite quickly.

    Let's get a bit more cerebral here. This is a Hollywood film. A Universal film at that.  Which means that they have at their disposal certain...shall we say...historical footage of Dracula.  I'm 100% sure if the actual footage from 1931's Dracula was used and then deep faked with Cage and Hoult overtaking Lugosi and Frye, or if it was just and extremely faithful recreation. To be honest it was such a surprise to me that I was taking it all in and did not get to scrutinize it.  Either way, holy shit what an incredible sequence!  If you ask me, THIS is the sort of shit they should have been doing with their failed "Dark Universe" that started and ended with Tom Cruise's The Mummy. I could get behind trying a shared Universal Monster Universe again if they went the same direction as Renfield.

    Renfield is a pretty intensely gory film.  Having said that, it would have been nice if a little more blood was practical effects.  Granted CGI blood has made leaps and bounds since the days of say, Van Helsing, but can always tell the real stuff from the digital stuff.  Either way, red is red and there was a metric shit ton of it.  I'm not sure EXACTLY how much a metric shit ton is, cause I live in the states and we used the ill advised Imperial System.  Which, also only used in Liberia and're welcome for the brief Geographic Units of Measure Lesson™.  Anyway, it's a lot.  Not like Dead Alive or Evil Dead levels, but it's got some gore.

    The film also comes with a strong message about toxic relationships and self worth and it can beat you over the head with it a little bit, but you know what? In this toxic, hate filled world we live in, we could use a little positive reinforcement, even in our action-horror-comedy flicks. So there's that. If you get upset when people try to spread a positive message, perhaps sit this one out.

On a final note, it was SO GREAT to get back to a theater. The Mrs. and I used to be at the movies constantly and a lot of that went to the wayside the past few years. It was so great to get back into it and I loved every second of it! 

Let's bring up the Midnight Cinephile Tallies!

BLOOD & GORE:  Wear a plastic poncho if you're sitting in the front row!

ALIENS, MONSTERS & MADMEN:  Monster royalty right here:  The Prince of Darkness himself: Dracula!  

T&A:  Negative, good buddy!  

FINAL THOUGHTS:  This is a super fun flick that goes well with greasy fistfuls of popcorn and a nice ice cold soda. Let the summer blockbuster season begin...we're off the a great start! 


Friday, April 14, 2023

Time To Dust Off The Cobwebs

 Well then let's see now.....

It's been a while, my friends.  Seven years by my count.

When last we crossed paths, it was April of 2016.  Things were going in a few interesting directions in my personal life and I didn't think I had the proper time to give to Midnight Cinephile...and so I decided to shelve it.

Little did I know that my life would be complete turned upside down just a few months later.

On Memorial Day, 2016, my father fell and broke his hip.  He was already in poor health with CHF, COPD and a myriad of other health issues due to a lifetime of smoking.  He was rushed to the hospital and immediately underwent surgery for his shattered hip.  I was sitting at work at the time when I got the phone call from my sister.  As soon as she told me, I broke out into tears.  Something deep inside of me knew that my father would never come back home.  I'm saddened to say that I was correct.

He went through surgery okay and was discharged to a rehab facility.  He was okay for a couple of days and then I noticed that he was forgetting some things that he shouldn't....which of his three children was oldest, my parents address, etc.  I was told that it was more than likely some lasting effects of the anesthesia. Being a medical professional myself, I knew that was a possible culprit. . .but still there was something that nagged at me.  Something wasn't right.  Another day or so later and my father started to hallucinate, speaking to people who weren't there and thinking that I and my family members were nurses or doctors, asking us "Where's my family?"  He was brought back to the hospital and it was suspected that he might have a UTI or another sort of infection.

He did not.

As a matter of fact, the doctors were unable to tell us why he was suddenly struck with such an altered state of consciousness.  He soon lost his ability to swallow. on July 7th, 2016 he passed away at the age of 66 with my mother, my sisters and myself at his side.  He was buried on my mother's birthday, four days before mine.

The next year, my wife and I moved out of our apartment in the city and bought a house in the country.  We had my mother move in with us. She was getting sicker with her kidney disease and was soon to start dialysis.  Her health continued to slowly decline until in January of 2020, I rushed to to the hospital for kidney and heart failure.  The doctors told me they did not expect her to make the night.  They were wrong. She did. Not only that, she survived heart surgery and was discharged just a week later.  However, once again, I could immediately tell that something was wrong. Mom wasn't acting right. It was discovered that she had a stroke while she was on the surgery table. Her memory was shot and I watched as my mother deteriorated  mentally. Her health took another turn when she started to become (what we thought) was severe anemia.  It was actually MDS (Myelodysplastic Syndrome), which is a blood disease that acts as a sort of precursor to leukemia.  So off we went to have tests done. Because Mom also was in ESRD (End Stage Renal Disease) she could not have chemotherapy or radiation to try and combat the growing disease inside of her.  There was nothing to be done. 

By this point, Mom's memory was pretty poor and every time I had to take her to the cancer center, we
had to have the conversation about her disease and she'd look at me with fear in her eyes and ask me if she was dying.  Even though I knew she couldn't remember, I could not lie to her. I must had that conversation with her no less than twenty times.  Each time it ripped my heart out.

Mom's final three years were probably the hardest thing I've ever had to deal with. Constant heartbreak, constant sorrow and in between work...which as some of you know, I work as a 911 dispatcher. 

My thoughts got pretty dark for a while. If it wasn't for the strength of my wife, I don't know how I would have gotten through it. She carried me through bouts of intense anger and rage at my inability to do anything to help my mother and bouts of profound sorrow the hopelessness of the situation.  I cried into that woman's shoulder more times that I can count...but every single time she would pull me back out. I'm not a religious man, but if there are such things as angels she is surely one on the highest of them.

My mother passed away on July 31st, 2022 at the age of 73. She was surrounded by my sisters and I and all our spouses in her own bed at home.

At the age of 43, I have no living parents or grandparents. I was left feeling hollow and numb for quite a while, just going through the motions. Caregivers guilt kicked in and I still suffer from bouts of it today every now and then.

If you are still reading this, you should probably get some sort of award.  Or at least a box of tissues because I'm sobbing right this minute, typing this. The words are just watery streaks in my vision. 

So why?  Why tell you all of this? Well, because honestly it's all part of why Midnight Cinephile is back!

It was around the beginning of the year.  I was digging through an old box of horror magazines and I came across the issue of Fangoria that I had my first article in (Fangoria #332...with Scarlett Johansson on the cover) I thought about what that article meant to me and how it never would have happened without Midnight Cinephile.  How many of my friendships with so many people both in and out of the horror and film industry were forged because of Midnight Cinephile.

At first I did not want to just reopen Midnight Cinephile. I wanted to do something fresh. Something new. Then I thought back to my attempts at podcasts.  Those never seemed to pan out for one reason or another. I thought of my attempts at video game journalism. I thought about my attempts at writing horror fiction (which were not actually that bad....but I learned quickly I will never be a commercial author....even in the smaller arena of horror and weird fiction stuff was...shall we say....a bit more out there.)  Again, I thought back to Midnight Cinephile and the off-shoots that arose from it:  The Red Room, Tales From Beyond the Campfire and even Retro Game Fortress.....all of it....sprung from the seed that was Midnight Cinephile. 

It was one final thought that cemented everything into place: My parents are gone. My childhood home is gone. There is almost nothing left of my past. I cannot go home again. 

Except I can. Midnight Cinephile IS my home. It is my Elm Street. My Crystal Lake. This is my Haddonfield and THIS is the night that I come home.

And in THAT spirit, I've updated the artwork and such, but this is still the exact same place as it was seven years ago. 

I'm excited to see where the iteration will take me.  I have certainly grown in many ways in the past seven years. I think that I have much more to offer now than I did then. I truly hope that you will be as happy to be here as I am. If you are reading this, then you are friend and family and I want you to know how much I appreciate you taking even a moment out of your day to visit.

And so my friends, with a heart filled with love I welcome you all back to The Midnight Cinephile.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Farewell My Friends

It's been a long strange journey, but I'm sad to say that it's time that Midnight Cinephile came to it's end.  I want to thank each and every one of you for being my constant readers these last seven years.  This is not the end of my exploits, but rather a new beginning.....keep your eyes peeled for new projects coming at ya in 2016 and beyond!

Thank you for watching movies past the witching hour with me.


Thursday, March 10, 2016

Victor Frankenstein - Bringing Creepy Stuff to life for 200 Years!

Victor Frankenstein
Paul McGuigan
Rated PG-13 - Approx. 110 Min

 - Meet your makers

 - Discover the origin of the monster and his creation.

Alternate Titles:Victor: The Secret History of Dr. Frankenstein

"Igor, you and I shall be at the heart of a scientific enterprise that will change the world. We shall create life out of death!"
                                                                        -Victor Frankenstein                      

Once again, I find myself going to bat for a movie that was much maligned by critics and public alike, yet I found enjoyable.  Victor Frankenstein is a new take on the nearly 200 year old novel by Mary Shelley and while it's certainly not going to end up on any "Best Of" lists, I found it to be an amusing and flashy Frankenstein romp.

Daniel Radcliffe's turn as Igor was exceptional and interestingly, I found his initial appearance in the circus to be a bit of an homage to the 1910 Edison version of The Frankenstein Monster.  Whether or not it was intentional, I don't know...but it was the first thing that I thought of.

In this updated retelling of the legend, Frankenstein finds Igor working as a clown/physician at a traveling circus.  When they first meet, he does not actually have a name.  Frankenstein gives his new friend that name after rescuing him from his abusive employers.

There is a police inspector on their trail as well, due to the fact that their escape from the circus did not go exactly according to plan and some circus folk ended up dead and/or disabled.  Such is the life of a mad scientist, eh?

The pair retreat back to Frankenstein's laboratory, where the good doctor informs Igor that he is in fact, not actually a hunchback, but rather has a large cystic sack of fluid on his back that he proceeds to drain, followed by some rather unorthodox chiropractic procedure.  After all is said and done, Igor is able to stand (mostly) straight with the help of a special harness.

I should probably back up a moment.  The reason that rescues Igor from the circus is because he discovers that Igor has a brilliant mind and is quite skilled in medicine, having performed a dangerous and rapid medical procedure on a fallen trapeze artist with whom he is infatuated.

Anyway, back at the lab, Frankenstein shows Igor the Lazarus Fork.  A special device that when coupled with a solution of certain electrolytes, metals, blah-blah-pseudoscience, etc, can bring life back to dead tissue.  He gives Igor and example with a pair of (I think) simian eyes.  Igor is suitably impressed but informs the good doctor that he's screwed up the nerves which is why the eyes aren't moving in sync.  Frankenstein begins bringing various organs to Igor piecemeal, having him work one organ at a time on his latest biggest experiment:  Bringing and ape back to life.

First of all, this humunculus is one of the most disturbing little critters I have seen in my entire life.  After a night out on the town drinking, Frankenstein brings Igor back to the lab and shows him what he's been working on on this time.  Being the rash and impatient man that he is, Frankenstein immediately takes the ape to the University to show off his findings.  Things predictably go a bit sideways, but none the less, he attracts the attention of a wealthy student there who agrees to fund his further project.  Now armed with all the money he needs, Frankenstein sets off on creating a thinking, intelligent man.

To go further into the plot is to spoil the film and so I shall stop there.  I will say that it was an interesting change to see the story through Igor's eyes.

While there are certainly some flaws in the film and it runs on the longer side, I never once found myself bored.  The cinematography was beautiful and the special effects, though there was a lot of CGI was also excellent.  The Frankenstein Monster is also very cool looking and probably one of my favorite designs.

For a Frankenstein flick, it's actually pretty light on the gore, though there are a few nasty little bits.  The aforementioned eyes.  The various organs and such.

Nope.  PG-13 my friends.

Damn straight!  Frankenstein's Monster!  Not to mention the little humunculus that rampages through the University.

I've got a serious soft spot (I seem to have a lot of those, don't I?) for the classic monsters.  I couldn't even begin to tell you how many Frankenstein movies there are in existence, let alone TV shows, cartoons, comics, video games, books, etc.  There is A LOT of Frankenstein out there.  This is certainly not going to land on the list anywhere near the Universal classics or the Hammer films, but it's a damn sight better than the lackluster '94 Frankenstein with Robert De Niro as the Monster!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Fantastic Four - Inter-Dimensional Travel Is Rough

Fantastic Four
Josh TrankRated PG-13 - Approx 100 Min
Released August 7, 2015

 - Change is coming.
 - When you change the world, prepare to defend it.
 - Beyond darkness... beyond fear... lies the fantastic.

Alternate TitlesFant4astic
Henry Street (False Working Title)

" I need a heat-resistant workshop, and a big-ass sunroof!"
                                                                                    -Johnny Storm

I'd been putting off watching the Fantastic Four reboot after hearing a multitude of reports that the film was terrible.  Then stories started coming out about the troubled production and the feud between Josh Trank and Fox.  It did not bode well and it was looking like Fantastic Four was not going to be the reboot that I'd been hoping for.

This weekend, I finally caved in after puttering around on Amazon Instant Video.  I had just finished watching Victor Frankenstein (keep your eyes peeled for THAT review coming soon!) and was in the mood for something flashy.

And so with mild trepidation, I hit the 48 hour rental button.  You know what?  I'm glad I did, because Fantastic Four isn't nearly as bad as critics and keyboard cowboys would have you believe.  Is it really, really good?  Nope.  But it also isn't really, really bad.

I think that one of the problems with the film is that it's another origin story.  We already got one in the '05 version.  Sure, I get it.  It's a reboot so we need a new origin tale, but I think that it really should have only taken up maybe the first 20 minutes of the film and then let the heroes do what they do best.

Instead we meet Reed Richards and Ben Grimm when they're in the 5th grade.   Then fast forward to high school and Reed being recruited by Dr. Franklin Storm and his adopted daughter Susan at the high school science fair.  Reed goes to work for Baxter Laboratories and it turns out that he's perfected an inter-dimensional teleportation device that they themselves had been trying to work on for six years.

Victor Von Doom is a brilliant scientist who was formerly working on the project and has some attitude problems.  Franklin brings Victor back in as well as his son, Johnny (who's basically being forced to work for the Doc as punishment for street racing.) and the team is complete.

After successfully sending the inter-dimensional  teleportation shuttle with a chimp passenger to another dimension and bringing it back, the big brass inform the team that they'll be taking over and giving the project to NASA.  This does not sit well with the boys.  Not wanting someone else to take the glory for all their hard work (can't say I really blame them) Reed, Victor and Johnny decide to take the shuttle to the other dimension themselves to at least put the first footprint there.  Reed calls Ben and tells him that he won't go across without his best friend at his side.
As I'm sure you can imagine, shit goes sideways and fast!  There's a strange green energy source the flows through the inter-dimensional planet (is it an alternate Earth?  I dunno...) and the foursome accidentally unleashes the power.  Victor falls down a cliff into a swirly green void of alien power and is presumed dead.  The other three beat feet back to the shuttle as the green energy explodes all around them.

Sue is back in the lab trying to bring them back.  Due to various mishaps occurring simultaneously each of them is imbued (yep, I just used the word IMBUED!) with different powers.  Obviously you know who's who and what's what.

Obviously Victor isn't dead and returns when the team builds a new shuttle to try and find a way to reverse their conditions.  Victor of course isn't Victor anymore, but now just calls himself DOOM.  His design is actually pretty cool and a little on the creepy side.  He's got some pretty wicked powers too...there's a neat scene where he's walking down the hall of the research lab pretty much blowing up peoples heads!

It all comes down to a final showdown in the other dimension.  The Fantastic Four start learning to work as a team and naturally save Earth from a nasty end.

Had they allowed the team more time to coalesce and cut back on the origin stuff, it would have helped the movie out a great deal.  The team is pretty much forced together and immediately go out after Doom after his blood hallway rampage.  It felt very rushed.

Still the visuals were great.  I think that this version of The Human Torch looks absolutely stunning.  The Thing looks a lot better than the '05 version as well (let alone the '94 Roger Corman flick).  It's really too bad that the reception to this film was so piss poor, because I wouldn't mind seeing what these versions of the characters could do as a fully formed team.

So if you've been on the fence about seeing Fantastic Four, take the plunge.  It's far from perfect, but it certainly is not the catastrophe that others would have you believe.

There's actually a bit of red stuff!  The aforementioned head popping hallway scene kinda surprised me.

Nope.  Unless big naked rock monsters is your thing.  In which case, you are a sick puppy.

No real monsters, but we've got some creatures!  The aforementioned Thing is a hulking rock beast and looks pretty badass.  Doom is much more alien looking than previous incarnations with glowing green eyes.

The tone of the film is much, much darker than that of the '05 film.  I think that may have also contributed to the backlash.  It's certainly not going to be everyone's cup of tea, but if you're a fan of superhero or comic book movies then at least give it a shot.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Unhinged - Slasher In The Old Dark House

(D) Don Gronguist
Unrated - Approx 79 Min
Released October 15, 1982

 - The Nightmare Begins When You Wake Up

 - Get your slice from the reaper. Violence beyond reason, Victims beyond help.

Alternate Titles:

"Don't give me that crap, Marion!  A lot of really weird things are going on around here. Breathing, strange sounds, your Mother, now faces at the window. I can't stand it!"
                                                                                - Terry

I'm sure I've said it here before, but I'll say it again, many times I'm sure.  There's nothing I love more than discovering a hidden gem, especially when when then seemingly come out of nowhere.  I'd never heard of this film before and when I went to research the VHS cover art (figuring it would trigger a memory from video store days) I realized that I was onto something on the rarer side.

By the way the VHS artwork is pretty dang swanky.  I love that The Reaper is holding a big bloody knife instead of a scythe.  On the downside, the killer is not dressed as The Reaper....though someone is killed with a scythe while the killer is wearing a hooded raincoat, so I guess that's sort of Reaperish, right?  Right.

The film follows three girls who get into a car crash on their way to a music festival.  During the ride we hear a news report of two girls having gone missing from a nearby campground, adding to the growing list of disappearances in the region.  After crashing their car en route, they are taken in by a woman named Marion and her mother who live in a big old creepy mansion.  Two of the girls (Terry and Nancy) are only slightly banged up, however their friend Gloria is a bit more injured and is bed-bound.

Terry and Nancy attend dinner with Marion and her mother and discover that the matriarch of the family has some serious anger issues when it comes to her husband and men in general.  She's also a pretty massive bitch to her daughter and all around just an old battle ax.  after an uncomfortable meal, the girls play a game of dominoes in the sitting room while Marion plays the piano.  Que heavy breathing and a shadowy figure spying on the girls from outside.

With both Marion and her mother acting weird, the shadowy figure lurking around and the general uncomfortable ambiance the house gives off (not to mention a thunderstorm every single night!) it becomes abundantly clear that something is not right around here.  The question is:  Who is that shadowy figure?

According to Marion the roads are washed out and the only way into town is to hike two or three miles through the woods, but warns that gives that hiking isn't a very good idea because the "woods are dangerous..."  Like we haven't heard THAT old chestnut before, eh?  Despite the warnings, Nancy decides to head for town to at least call her parents to let them know what's happened.  During the hike, Nancy is murdered by the aforementioned figure in a raincoat with a scythe, in a rare daytime slashing.

Who is behind the killings?  What secrets are Marion and her mother holding?  Why are there so many thunderstorms during October in Oregon?  Some of those questions WILL be answered by the end of Unhinged, but you've gotta watch to find out!

Now, I know that I just told you that this is a hidden gem of a slasher, but that comes with a bit of a disclaimer as well:  This movie is not going to appeal to everyone.  If you're a fan of early 80's slashers and you're expecting something on par with Friday the 13th, The Burning or Sleepaway Camp you're going to be disappointed.  However, if you're a fan of low budget regional cinema and you're in the mood for a slower paced slasher, you'll be alright.

The acting is downright bad.  Dialog is stilted and feels at times like it would be more at home in a live theatrical play than in film, but knowing that most of the cast and crew are local Oregonians (and the actress playing Marion (Janet Penner) comes from a theatrical background) I'm willing to bet that's where most have their experience.

Bad acting however, does not make a bad movie.  When you take that bad acting and stilted dialog and combine it with a pretty rad electronic synth score (of course add a dash or two of nudity and gore) and you've got yourself a strangely atmospheric little flick that is definitely getting put into my regular rotation!

If you go out and get the DVD, a word of warning:  DO NOT listen to the so called "Comedy Commentary" provided on the DVD.  It is nothing more than some MST3K wannabe's ripping the film apart in the most unfunny and juvenile ways.  I couldn't listen to more than 15 minutes of it before I turned it off.

Also provided as an extra is a local TV interview with writer/director Don Gronquist and star Janet Penner.  It is quite possibly one of the most awkward and uncomfortable interviews I have seen in recent memory.  Gronquist looks like he was very nervous and frequently freezes and takes long pauses in his answers, often times not making much sense.  I felt really bad for the guy.

While it's not gratuitous, there is some decent gore on display here.  The aforementioned scythe slashing is just the start.  There's also an ax murder and a pretty brutal machete murder as well.  

Why yes indeed!  We get to see Terry and Nancy take a shower.  Well, actually we get to see Terry take two showers!  Watch out for some serious 80's bush!

A mysterious figure slashing up pretty young nubile girls!

Unhinged has a certain vibe to it that I really enjoyed.  It reminded me of when I was just out of high school.  Still living at home with Mom & Dad.  I worked at my beloved Video Paradise and also delivering for Domino's Pizza.  Sundays were my only day off, so on Saturday nights, I would take out four or five movies from the video store and watch them all day Sunday.  I've got many fond memories of rainy Sunday afternoons watching weird old slashers in my room, with a bag of Doritos and a bottle of Dr. Pepper.  Ahhhh, those were the days!