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The Unseen

September 8th, 2008 by unkle lancifer · 12 Comments


If you’re hungry for the elaborate squishy kills usually associated with early eighties horror, THE UNSEEN might leave you high and dry. This throwback with its crusty Victorian homestead and basement full of family secrets walks in the long shadow of PSYCHO even going so far as aping its superior’s voyeuristic eye for bathing blonds.

Beauty BARBARA BACH stars as ace reporter Jennifer Fast, hot on the story of the century, documenting a North California Dutch street fair. (Wait ‘till the big wigs see her footage of the red rider wagons handsomely decorated in aluminum foil!) Although obviously a mover and a shaker, Jennifer is denied a hotel room due to no fault of her own and is left along with two tag along, doomed-from-the-get-go pals to rely on the kindness of strangers to put a roof over her head. Strangers don’t come any stranger than pot bellied jittery stutterer Ernest Keller (ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST escapee SYDNEY LASSICK), but when you’re desperate, you’re desperate and who wants to be left on the street when there are crazed Dutch revelers about? Jennifer is unaware that her estranged boyfriend Tony Ross (DOUGLAS BARR of DEADLY BLESSING & THE FALL GUY) has followed her and her friends. Thanks to a football injury, he’s about as useful in the events ahead as a screen door on a submarine, but he does make a fine chauffeur.

Once in the Keller home we are introduced to my favorite character in the film, Ernest’s wife/spoiler-alert sister Virginia (LELIA GOLDONI), an obvious graduate of the VERONICA CARTWRIGHT school of self-composure. Soon Jennifer’s pals are being tugged into (eat your heart out THE BOOGENS!), and bashed in the face with, heating vents and it’s gleaned that Virginia’s basket case disposition is warranted. As it turns out Flounder from ANIMAL HOUSE (STEPHEN FURST) is trapped in the basement condemned by a local witch’s curse to perform RIDING THE BUS WITH MY SISTER to an audience of zero for all of eternity. O.K., that’s not true, he’s the Keller’s incest spawn and I know you’re not allowed to say “retard” anymore, so let’s just say he’s special. In this case special means stopping just short of dropping to the ground like CURLY from the THREE STOOGES and spinning about in a circle screeching a-woo-woo-woo! It also means when you clock a chick in the skull with a metal heating grate she’s done.

This is where THE UNSEEN kind of looses me. All of the sudden we are meant to feel sympathy for the monster baby who KILLED TWO PEOPLE and transfer our fear over to his far less threatening Daddy Ernie. What’s the point of that? Did they think they would receive an image award from the disability advocacy community? That ship sort of sailed when Flounder shoved a teddy bear down the front of his diaper, went for a joyride on what I think was a vacuum cleaner, and then dived into the nearby pile of garbage that he uses as a bed.

As disappointing as this too-little-too-late I NOW PRONOUNCE YOU CHUCK AND LARRY-type insincere display of a conscience is, I have much love for THE UNSEEN. For a movie with the paltry body count of a mere four (that’s including the villain AND a decapitated chicken!), I think it’s really special.

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12 responses so far ↓

  • 1 sbdNo Gravatar // Sep 8, 2008 at 12:56 am

    And the award for most side-references in a single movie review goes tooooo….  Unkle Lancifer!

  • 2 mamamiasweetpeachesNo Gravatar // Sep 8, 2008 at 10:31 am

    I have a hang-over and its taken me awhile to wake up today, but reading this review did the trick: I laughed my azz off! You really should be doing the summarys on the back of video store movie sleeves- people would be renting this in droves if they heard YOUR version of the story.

    I have long felt my Horror has been missing something and now I know what it is: Flounder!

  • 3 Amanda By NightNo Gravatar // Sep 8, 2008 at 1:56 pm

    Steven Furst made some interesting casting choices back in the day. Remember him in Silent Rage? It’s a great little hybrid of action/slasher and the story he tells about the dog in the freezer is just jaw dropping. You can’t believe anyone thought that would be a funny story! And the part where he sees a booby and goes all crazy… well, it’s pretty awesome.

    I haven’t seen The Unseen in years (but I do know it’s out on DVD or will be soon, right? Half.com, here I come!!!) Anyway, a good friend of mine recommended this movie back then and in fact, told me that old Flounder did tug a bit at the heartstrings. So maybe your Riding the Bus with My Sister is someone else’s Bill?

    Great review and nice screen cap of Doug Barr! So cute!

  • 4 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Sep 8, 2008 at 8:22 pm

    Amanda,
    I didn’t mean to paint flounder as totally unsympathetic. It just strikes me as odd that all of the sudden you’re meant to feel sorry for him after he just murdered two people. I guess I think it would have been scarier if they continued with him as the main threat rather than the father.

    (I saw your mention of the monster in THE FUNHOUSE and that is a great example, you do feel sorry for him, but you’re always aware that he’s dangerous.)

    Code red just came out with an incredible two disc set for this movie and I ordered it as soon as I heard about it. There are a lot of great extras. THE UNSEEN is actually a favorite of mine from that time period so I hope that my poking fun at some of it doesn’t come off as me not liking the movie. Like Triumph the insult dog, I kid because I love.

    Now as far as Mickey Rooney’s “BILL” That is like kryptonite to me!

    “like normal people” with Linda Purl and Sean Cassidy THAT is my jam!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • 5 Amanda By NightNo Gravatar // Sep 8, 2008 at 9:24 pm

    No Unk, it was an awesome review and yeah, there’s a lot of love there.  It’s one of my favorite time periods too. The look and feel of those films just can’t be duplicated.

    OMG! Yes, Bill is the shizz-nit! I haven’t seen it in years, and not sure I could!

    I just got Like Normal People a few months ago and tried to watch it. My boyfriend made me take it out. It was driving him nuts! I’ll see it one day! Remember Winnie? There’s another one!

  • 6 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Sep 8, 2008 at 9:47 pm

    Amanda,

    I have never seen “Winnie” but it’s Meredith Baxter Birney? I gotta get on that asap! 
    What about “Profoundly Normal” with Kirsie Alley, that’s sorta recent (2003)
    It keeps the great tradition alive…   
    “Bill” would be proud.

  • 7 Amanda By NightNo Gravatar // Sep 8, 2008 at 10:02 pm

    Gawd, I totally missed the Kirstie Alley one. I’m pretty sure I heard a co-worker telling someone after it aired that it was pretty bad.

    Bill is incredible. No one can top Mickey Rooney and his toupee! He’s on his own, you know…

  • 8 mamamiasweetpeachesNo Gravatar // Sep 9, 2008 at 11:07 am

    Didn’t Dana Hill make one too? I think it was called Jellybean or somethin’ like that. And – wait! Julie Kavner made one too! There were a plethora of “Special People” movies on TV and I have never seen ANY of them! I better get crackin’!

  • 9 Amanda By NightNo Gravatar // Sep 9, 2008 at 4:32 pm

    Dana Plato?!? Oh. My. GOD. Must have… must have…

  • 10 megatone230No Gravatar // Sep 10, 2008 at 5:11 am

    Oh man I remember watching this on Cinemax when I was in high school… I really remember that chicken head/grate scene freaked me out…along with the creepy sister/wife lady.
    (I can’t wait to see the new dvd I hope the special features are good.)

  • 11 mamamiasweetpeachesNo Gravatar // Sep 12, 2008 at 9:47 am

    I watched this movie last night and LOVED it!! Makes me wonder why I had never heard of it before you good people mentioned it!

    My husband on the other hand found it “suckish”. Screw him! I’ve  loved Theres-Something-Hidin’-In-The-House movies ever since I saw BAD RONALD as a wee lass!

  • 12 EshbaalNo Gravatar // Feb 22, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    Okay, I realize this is an over three year old post, but I am watching this movie right now, and I gotta protest!

    That “dutch” parade!?
    They actually talk about how everyone they see there are descendants of the DANISH folk, show danish royal guards, show a danish flag being waved about… but dutch folk dancers and clogs everywhere! EVERYWHERE!

    To put it mildly ,neither the dutch or the danes are too fond of being confused with one another.

    That little bat aside, I am actually sort of enjoying The Unseen. It’s slow as all hell, but not that bad.

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