Tag Archives: weird-ass twist

Men are from Mars, women are from crazy

unhinged-coverUNHINGED

3 Stars  1982/18/77m

“Violence beyond reason. Victims beyond help.”

Director: Don Gronquist / Writers: Don Gronquist & Reagan Ramsey / Cast: Laurel Munson, J.E. Penner, Sara Ansley, Virginia Settle, Barbara Lusch, John Morrison.

Body Count: 4

Dire-logue: “I’ll be sure to excuse myself when she breaks out the heroin.”


More of a low-key psycho thriller than an out n’ out slasher extravaganza, Unhinged has a reputation as a shitty, best-forgotten throwback to the cheapo post-Friday the 13th days of slasherama.

Teen girlfriends Terry, Nancy and Gloria are off to a rock festival when they crash their car in a rainstorm. Terry wakes up at the secluded mansion house residence of Marion Penrose and her infirm mother, who rattles around in a wheelchair, abusing Marion and going into unexplained trances at the dinner table when she becomes fascinated with the table condiments.

u1aEdith Penrose is a nasty old hag who hates men, and so Marion’s simple brother Carl is restricted to creeping around outside after dark or in the attic. With Gloria out for the count after the accident, only Terry and Nancy have to endure the rantings of the old lady, sit on the floor like children and play dominos while Marion tickles the ivory and feel generally wigged out by the whole thing.

…And who’s that eye belong to staring at the girls while they shower?

unhinged-2picsNancy elects to trek into town for help the next day and soon meets the sharp end of a giant sickle. It’s a cool, unexpected murder scene, pretty much out of the blue. One second the girl is climbing up an embankment, then next she’s being slashed at with the uber-scythe by an unidentified rainmacked psycho.

u4aBack at Penrose Towers, Terry tries to find out why Marion puts up with her mother’s shit and there are some loooooong scenes of dialogue, some more night-creeping with the creepy-eye putting in another appearance. Gloria is summarily done away with having hardly appeared in the film at all and Terry begins to grow increasingly suspicious. Needless to say, bodies are found, running and screaming ensues and Terry reprimands the culprit…or does she?

u3aHorrible mom-from-hell, creepy old house, extreme close-ups on a gorping eye – all very Psycho. The handyman is even called Norman Barnes! While there’s only a principal cast of four, it’s evident one of them must be the killer – but who? Could mandrist-mom be toddling free of her wheelchair? Is Carl more dangerous than simple? Or is Marion more repressed than we thought?

u6a

The outcome isn’t entirely predictable, in fact it would be pretty clever if so many almanacs and reviews didn’t give it away as the film’s ‘selling point’. Unhinged‘s best asset is the constant sense of dread hanging over proceedings; there’s very little action or standardised horror staples on show, which will undoubtedly make it an endurance test for many viewers, but if you’re into curious C-movies that somehow made it on to the ‘Video Nasties List’ until 2004, then it could leave a bit of an impression.

The film was loosely remade in the UK in 2017.

BABYSITTER WANTED

babysitter_wantedaBABYSITTER WANTED

2.5 Stars  2008/18/87m

“No experience necessary.”

Directors: Jonas Barnes & Michael Manasseri / Writer: Jonas Barnes / Cast: Sarah Thompson, Matt Dallas, Bruce Thomas, Kristen Dalton, Bill Moseley, Nana Visitor, Monty Bane, Jillian Schmitz.

Body Count: 5


Beginning like another re-telling of the old When a Stranger Calls myth, shy smalltown girl Angie needs money for college and takes a job babysitting at a secluded farm for the Stanton family’s equally shy son, Sam. Already concerned that maybe she’s being stalked, things get worse when the phone calls begin and somebody tries to break in…

Word of mouth set up a good prospect for Babysitter Wanted and the ambience was nicely working in spite of some cringey monologues and then came the midpoint twist many positive reviews alluded to. It’s different for sure and I was surprised to find that my guess wasn’t far from the truth. The film tiptoes along the outskirts of slasher film territory without ever committing itself; Angie is held captive, escapes, is captured again, cries, screams and eventually succeeds…

And here’s the spoilage. Click away now if you don’t want to know. Go on…go…

The kid, her sittee if you will, is the Son of Satan. The ‘intruder’ is a priest trying to kill him and, when the kid’s cowboy hat topples off, Angie spots little horns-a-growin’ through his hair. The parents tie her up and explain that Sam eats the flesh of virginal girls but now they must leave as more of the priest’s followers will be on route.

It bugged me that this ‘miracle twist’ was so hammy. The film was trundling along pleasantly and then this. Once revealed, there are a couple of murders; Bill Moseley’s cop comes along trying to help and there’s some good chase action but once the kid shows his true colours, muttering “hungry” as he approaches Angie with a knife, all we really want is for her to kill him with extreme prejudice! Of course they wimp out and things are left for a sequel.

I was also suspicious of the film’s motives here; Angie is a good Catholic girl, as shown when she prays with Mom (Nana Visitor, who played Mrs Voorhees in the Friday the 13th reboot) and in her dorm room. The boy she begins ‘seeing’ is also a nice religious lad and it wouldn’t surprise me if the film were funded by a smart-thinking Christian group trying to send a message to an otherwise unreachable audience demographic here… Ergo, there’s no nudity and little swearing. Weird, weird film. Coulda been better.

Blurbs-of-interest: Scott Spiegel (the doctor at the end) directed Intruder; Moseley was recently in the horrendously bad – and curiously also web-overrated – Home Sick.

Whodunit? No, really, who???

RIPPER: LETTER FROM HELL

4 Stars  2001/18/110m

“Jack’s back…”

Director: John E. Eyres / Writers: John Curtis, Evan Tylor & Pat Bermel / Cast: A.J. Cook, Bruce Payne, Ryan Northcott, Claire Keim, Jurgen Prochnow, Derek Hamilton, Emmanuelle Vaugier, Daniella Evangellista, Kelly Brook, Courtenay J. Stevens.

Body Count: 12

Dire-logue: “For the second time in a few years, people are being murdered around you and you don’t think there’s a connection?”


Looking at the DVD cover for Ripper, it’s plain to see where it’s got some of its ideas from. That old triangle formation of pretty cast members up for the chop from another merciless killer. Mwa-ha-ha-haaaa…

Brit Director Eyres gave us the pitiful Goodnight, God Bless back in ’87 but his eye for what makes a decent body count flick has doubtlessly improved in the 14 year gap between that tripe and this impressive looking Canadian export, which owes as much to Urban Legend as it does to the story of Jack the Ripper.

We begin with a blonde girl running through the rain, finding her friends dead – nailed to trees; covered in a mountain of soil (!?) – and watch her swim to a nearby yacht where more bodies are found and one unlucky gal gets sucked into the propeller (pictured). Ouch.

ripper-victim

Blonde girl – Molly – ultimately survives and we leap five years into the future and rejoin her, now a red-head and full of attitude, at a college where she is studying criminology under Professor Marshall Kane (Bruce Payne), currently learning about serial killers. During a lecture we get to the meet the meat in the form of Molly’s student colleagues. There’s prissy French girl Chantelle, wannabe-lothario Eddie, stuttering, frowny Aaron, and a few less interesting ones. Then there’s Kelly Brook as the (who knew) oversexed chick with in a short skirt, Marisa.

At a costume party-slash-rave in some delapidated city building, Marisa is chased and murdered before being flung through a window for all to see. Eyres makes the most of this debut murder (excluding the stuff at the beginning), as it occurs quite some way into the film. Marisa is first suspended upside down out of a window several stories from the ground and then hoisted back in by the killer who proceeds to knife her to death while her blood drips on to a starlet dancing on the floor below. We also get a few of those cool screaming-face-reflected-in-the-blade shots.

ripper-kellybrook

Back at school, everyone’s talking about what happened at the party. Which is to be expected, I suppose. Some of the students in Molly’s study group want to investigate on their own despite her preference to steer clear. It’s already been established that Molly is a bit of a cow. She’s pretty damn aggressive, doing a goth-chick thing that slowly dissipates over the course of the film. Her attitude is one of Rippers shortcomings, evidently an attempt to give things a ‘gritty’ feel by having her wear dogtags and reside in a graffiti-walled shithole. One must wonder what she’s doing at such a pompous university with all her inoffensive, pastel-wearing classmates. A.J. Cook later played the psychic girl who predicted the freeway crash in Final Destination 2, so we know she can be a nice girl too.

When another of the group is murdered in a stylish road-rage manner, Molly connects the dots and puts it to the Professor (and the class and Jurgen Prochnow’s apple-chomping detective) that the killer is copying Jack the Ripper’s M.O., right down to the number and location of stab and slash wounds on the victims.

ripper-molly

Stupidness soon ensues after a third murder (coupled with some weird hallucinations) and the remaining four teens feel it’s wise to go, with the Professor, to his cabin in the middle of the woods where there is no phone reception or shortage of cutting implements to hand. It must be noted at this point nobody has proposed why their particular study group is being targeted…

The inevitable soon unravels and nasty ends await Eddie, Chantelle and Aaron (who has followed them). The latter two endure falling into a logging conveyor which drags them into enough deadly saw blades to make Leatherface squeamish. So it’s between Molly, her love interest Jason and Professor Kane. Having worked out that the initials of the group correspond to those of the Ripper victims, they’re all concerned that they may be next.

ripper-maryanne

Ripper suddenly stalls once the remaining characters enter the rain-soaked woods. The identity of the killer – and whoever slaughtered Molly’s friends five years before – is revealed, and then unrevealed, and then sort of revealed again. In short, there are maybe three twists that overlap in the last few minutes, each negating the previous one. According to the commentary, Eyres didn’t get the end he wanted, so it’s debatable whether the close we’re left with is a comment on The Ripper’s true identity, something that will remain cloaked in mystery forever.

Ultimately Ripper is a handsome, engaging film that sadly loses its way in the last ten minutes. It runs too long and takes itself too seriously but is leagues ahead of the usual straight-to-DVD shelf filler in terms of its production values and core ideas alone. The gore is plentiful and, watching it yesterday, I noticed for the first time a fleeting shot of the poor sod’s head meeting with the saw blades during the gruesome logging mill scene. I wasn’t keen on all the violence against women stuff that came through good n’ strong, it’s something I still find a bit uncomfortable, not helped in this case by one of the least likeable final girl’s going. There’s also the killer’s copy-the-killer schtick that Molly latches on to – did Jack the Ripper use a jeep to mow down any of the Whitechapel hookers? Hmm… Not sure he had access to a saw mill either. It’s a slightly pretentious, wannabe slasher par intelligentsia, followed by a really rubbish sequel a couple of years later.

ripper-group

Blurbs-of-interest: Three of the actresses – Cook, Vaugier and Evangellista – appeared in various Wishmaster sequels. Vaugier crops up in The Fear: Resurrection too. Chantelle’s accent is actually real, contrary to what some IMDb critics assumed. Derek Hamilton was in Taboo. If you’re feeling masochistic, check out the more-or-less unrelated sequel.

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