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Directed by Danny Steinman in 1980, The Unseen stars Barbara Bach as a reporter named Jennifer Fast who travels with her two friends, Karen (Karen Lamm) and Vicki (Lois Young) to a small town where they hope to spend the night in a hotel and then get to work covering a local festival. It turns out the hotel that they've come to visit is no longer in operation, it's now a museum but the museum operator, a man named Ernest Keller (Sydney Lassick), helps them out. While all of the hotels in the area are booked solid because of the local events, he offers them lodging at a remote farmhouse that owns with this wife. The three ladies agree, and off they go.
Things seem fine at first but soon enough they meet Ernest's sister, Virginia (Leila Goldini), a meek woman who seems to get upset very easily for some reason. Once they've settled in to enjoy their stay, the come to learn that there's more to the Keller's residence than meets the eye and that the thing (Stephen Furst) in the basement is no product of their imagination.
This one takes a while to get going but by the time we hit the half way mark, there's a strange sense of perversion beginning to shape up and the last half of the picture more than makes up for its slow start. The cinematography in the movie is top notch and the camerawork here not only captures some of the charm offered up by the quaint, small town locations but also (and more importantly), the creepiness of the massive old farmhouse where the bulk of the picture winds up taking place.
The movie does borrow a little bit from Hitchcock's Psycho but stretches out enough on its own to make it worth checking out. It's not a gore fest and it's low on bloodshed but makes up for that with a rather intense finale that is more interested in unnerving viewers than grossing them out. While there is some (unintentional?) comedic value in seeing Animal House's Flounder looking more like Sloth from The Goonies than anything else, the concept behind his rampage is twisted enough to work. Sydney Lassick is perpetually sweaty and sleazy and weird and his relationship with Goldini as his sister is predictably twisted. Bach is good as the female lead, keeping her cool for most of the movie and then freaking out appropriately as it becomes more and more obvious that the situation she's found herself in is horrible.
Though it's a little bit on the predictable side and its twists aren't particularly difficult to figure out, The Unseen is perverted enough to hold its own. A good cast, an interesting premise and a few memorably twisted set pieces help to hold our attention while the technical polish ensures that the movie works.
The Unseen was first released by Code Red in 2008 and then by Scorpion Releasing on DVD and Blu-ray in 2013. In 2018 Scorpion reissued the film on Blu-ray, and this 2021 release seems to duplicate that release, minus the limited edition slipcover. The 2018 release gave the film a new remastering. We don't have the older 2013 Blu-ray release to compare it to but it definitely offers a big improvement over the DVD that came out that same year. Taken from a new 2k scan of the original 35mm negative, not only do we get noticeably improved detail but the colors are much better here, which is most noticeable in the last act where things actually do look like they're taking place at night now. There's good depth and texture here and skin tones look natural. The image retains a nice amount of expected film grain but is free of all but a few tiny white specks here and there as far as print damage goes. Black levels are strong, colors reproduced very nicely. This is a pretty impressive transfer.Sound:
The English language DTS-HD Mono track is problem free and offers up clear dialogue and decent range. The score sounds nice here too, as do the effects. The track is free of any problems like hiss or sibilance, it's properly balanced… no issues! Optional English subtitles are provided.
There are plenty of extras on the disc, mostly carried over from past releases, starting with a commentary track with actor Stephen Furst and producer Anthony Unger that was previously recorded for the older Code Red DVD release from a few years ago and which was moderated by Lee Christian. This is a pretty interesting talk that is a solid mix of scene specific trivia and information about The Unseen as well as some fairly fascinating stories about their respective careers. There are occasional moments of humor to help keep things fairly light but Christian more or less keeps them on topic for the duration.
New to this disc is an interview with editor Jon Braun that clocks in at nineteen-minutes or so in length. This is an interesting and amusing piece in which Braun talks about how he wound up cutting the film after the original editor and the director couldn't' get along. From there he talks about interacting with the lovely Ms. Bach, some of the quirkier scenes that he had to edit in the picture and quite a bit more. Fun stuff.
Also carried over from that Code Red disc are interviews with actors Doug Barr (seven-minutes) and Stephen Furst (nine-minutes) as well as with special effects technicians Craig Reardon (thirty-eight minutes) and Tom Burman (twenty-five minutes). The disc also includes a new twenty-five-minute interview with the film's producer, Anthony Unger, conducted by Katarina Leigh Waters. The interviews cover some of the same ground as the commentary does but have enough to differentiate them from that talk to make them worth checking out, particularly in regards to Burman and Reardon discussing the makeup and effects work.
Rounding out the extras are a trailer for the feature, trailers for a few other Scorpion Releasing titles, a still gallery menus and chapter selection. You also get the option of watching the movie in Katarina's Nightmare Theater mode which includes an intro and outro from Waters in which she offers up some thoughts and trivia on the picture.
The slow build up might put some off but The Unseen holds up well as a twisted early eighties horror picture made by a capable director with an interesting cast. Scorpion's Blu-ray reissues offers the film in its best presentation to date, with a really nice looking restored transfer, solid audio and some great extra features.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.