Monday, September 22, 2008

The Unseen (1981)

I wish I had been able to skip over the cast introduction to this one. One guy, I think he played the american footballer trying to hold onto his fame and glory despite a debilitating knee injury, simply said "I hope you enjoy it". Fine, it's pointless, but I appreciate the enthusiasm. Unfortunately, the next cast member was Flounder from Animal House. Aka, Stephen Furst. Aka, Chuck Norris' bumbling overweight sidekick from Silent Rage. He says something along the lines of "at the very least, you guys get to see me running around in a diaper." Fuck, where's the god damned spoiler alert you fuckers? Before the opening credits, we know he's the fucking "unseen" (until of course the last 30 minutes when he's anything but "the unseen"). So, I spent the first hour plus of this thing anticipating the laughter that would accompany such a "revelation" only when the moment came, all I could intially feel was pity, sadness, disgust. Then laughter.

Former Bond girl Barbara Bach (Great Alligator River) stars as emmy winning reporter Jennifer Fast who travels with her sister (Karen Lamm) and a fellow reporter (Lois Young) to a small bum-fuck town in California to cover a small bum-fuck festival. They botched the hotel reservation and, in desperation, are put up with a jovial little fat guy, played by Sydney Lassick (Alligator and a shit load of other films....don't worry, you'll recognize him. This guys a character) who harbors more than a few skeletons in his closet (er...basement); Literally and figuratively of course. He drives them to his house, even farther out of bum-fuck than bum-fuck, and introduces them to his "wife" (Leilani Goldoni), who is perpetually frightened. Something clearly is not right, but the girls are just happy to have a place to stay. What possible reason would they have to fear this jovial little fat man and his meek wife? Why does the camera immediately pan to the grates on the floor? Hmmm, why haven't we seen Flounder running around in his diapers yet?

This picture's a little too schizophrenic for its own good. Directed by the guy who made one of the absolute worst Friday's (13th part V) and co-written by the guy that co-wrote one of the greatest horror pictures of all time(Texas Chainsaw Massacre), this thing moves too frequently from slasher to psychological drama, to comedy, and back and forth. Everything that happens is telegraphed a mile away, not a damned thing left to the imagination. There's a scene where Lassick (fat guy remember) seems to be having a conversation with his father (revealing his entire fucking history) and then, of course, the camera cuts to his long deceased father sitting across from him with a knife still sticking out of long decayed throat. So, here's the Psycho element I guess. Since the DVD intro felt the need to spoil the thing for me, I guess I'll follow suit. Lassick has always been a bit of a nut. Apparently, he raped his sister (Goldoni) and she had his kid ("the unseen"). The father found out and was about to castrate his boy when a struggle ensued and the knife ended up lodged in his throat. There, dear old dad's remained. Propped up in a chair, rapidly decaying for the last twenty years or so. Meanwhile, Lassick's beaten his sister into submission to the point where it's a wonder she hasn't taken her own life. What does she have to live for? I guess their 20 year old freakazoid living in the basement is what.

So, we've established that the movie isn't scary. Why should you bother watching it then? It's intermittently funny I guess. Reason enough for you? Aside from the absurd performance by Lassick, and later Furst, there are some great scenes involving our three unlucky gals. One, a bit under the weather, decides to take a bath which allows Lassick to look through a magic keyhole. She undressess in front of a mirror and he sees it clear as day (thankfully, so do we). She goes to the tub and, suddenly, the keyhole changes perspective (bush alert people). It's a truly magical moment. The kills, while weak as hell, are fucking ridiculous. Girl falls asleep, grate slowly opens, something "unseen" drags struggling girl through the grate, she fights and fights, grate slams down and breaks her neck (this becomes even more laughable when another girl stands over her deceased friends head without noticing). Another girl grabs some fruit from the bowl on the kitchen table, knocks it over, and gets on all fours (over a grate) to pick up the pieces. Her scarf gets slowly pulled into the grate, again by something "unseen" and her face gets repeatedly mashed into the grate. Beautiful women dying is rarely this funny.

Which brings us to Furst. Now that Bach's friends are dead, Lassick decides they have to cover everything up (his first sane decision of the picture). Bach returns from some emmy winning reporting (and an attempt at a reconciliation with her "abusive" boyfriend) only to be locked in the basement (at about the 1:10 mark). Shock, baby Furst isn't the villain of this thing at all. It's his incestuous, raping father. Oh sure, rape baby killed the two women but those deaths were an accident (grate falling on head, woman's face not small enough to fit through cracks in grate). He just wanted to play! Any good lawyer could get him off on an involuntary manslaughter charge. These scenes between Bach and Furst in the basement are funny, uncomfortable, sad and, dare I say, poignant? Nope, not going there. Furst looks a bit like Jason Voorhees, only if Voorhees wore diapers, was beyond pudgy, and repeatedly hit himself in the head with a teddy bear. Still, Bach would rather be left alone by the overgrown brat. The bitch did lie about getting an abortion to her boyfriend after all. In fact, I think she lied about him beating on women, but I digress. The guy may be a failure, but at least he'll show up to save the day, right? Um, yeah, unfortunately, he's got that bum knee which provides the comedic gem of the picture.

It's hard not to recommend this one despite everything that's wrong with it. It's a failure in every respect. The characters are all poorly developed. Bach, the heroine, comes across as a complete bitch whom the audience would love to see meet a grisly end(not the poor girl that actually showed her bush!) Also, how the fuck are we supposed to suspend disbelief for even a second and believe that the guy that played Flounder could make his way around the house via ventilation shafts? Im-fucking-possible. I call bullshit. Then again, in a house that features a magic keyhole, maybe, just maybe, anything is possible.

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