Scorpion Releasing // 1981 // 92 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis (Retired) // July 12th, 2013
For these many years, it has been down there breathing, eating, growing, hiding, waiting, waiting...
It's a pretty good rule of thumb for horror to stay out of the basement, no matter how enticing it might seem. There's even a movie whose title specifically recommends this (spoiler: they do end up looking in the basement; it doesn't work out well for them), and characters do well to heed the advice. But what happens when the basement comes to the characters? That's the scenario with the aptly titled, obscure horror oddity called The Unseen.
A trio of reporters head to a small California town to cover their annual Dutch festival but, when they arrive, they discover that all the hotels are booked solid. A kind museum curator (Sydney Lassick, One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest) comes to their rescue, offering the spare rooms at his farm to them. They happily accept and arrive there, only to discover that there's a secret in the basement, a secret that threatens all of their lives.
Given some of the names behind this title, it's hard to believe that it's so obscure, having just the one release a few years ago until now. Not only does it star Barbara Bach (The Spy Who Loved Me) as the main reporter, it features character actor weirdo Lassick, who most will recognize, even if the name is unfamiliar, and Stephen Furst (Babylon 5) as the uncredited and titular unseen. On top of that, Kim Henkel (writer of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) wrote the story and effects wizards Stan Winston (Predator) and Tom Burman (Teen Wolf) are attached, though as writers, which makes that a little less appealing.
Still, there is enough here that should have made it something of a cult classic, but it's instead an obscurity. In fairness, it's not all that good, though I enjoy it quite a bit, but the awkward direction by Danny Steinmann (Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning) basically undermines what could have been a much better film. There are some choice scenes, including the reveal of how the basement boy came to be and the basement boy trying to befriend Barbara Bach, but that has almost everything to do with the respective performances from Lassick and Furst than anything else.
Otherwise, the dumb framing story, low body count, and relatively bloodless plot may turn off those looking for hard-R '80s horror, but I find the film just weird enough to be creepy. It's not for everybody, certainly, but I find the movie a stupid good time.
The Unseen comes to DVD from Scorpion releasing under the "Katarina's Nightmare Theater" banner and, as usual, the disc is very solid. I received a screener for review, but the performance here should represent the release copy. The newly remastered 1.85:1 image is fantastic, better really than it really has any right to look. There is almost nothing in the way of dirt or damage on the print, colors are rich and accurate, and black levels are deep and solid. If you've seen the movie on the Code Red release, you'll quickly see the fairly large upgrade. The stereo sound mix, while generally free from noise and with clear dialog, is more than acceptable, but there's nothing special about it.
The extra features, while pulled almost entirely from the Code Red release, are still extensive. It starts with an audio commentary with producer Tony Unger and Stephen Furst is an interesting, mostly engaging listen, though it's not all that exciting. A series of interviews, including one with Unger conducted by host Katarina Leigh Waters, the only new extra, are long and fairly in depth. A pair of still galleries, a trailer, and the usual bookends with Waters and her bad jokes round out the disc.
I perfectly understand that The Unseen isn't anything close to great cinema, but it's good, silly bit of genre fun that I enjoy quite a bit. If you're a fan of the movie, this release is a solid upgrade from the previous and worth the purchase. Recommended.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Scorpion Releasing
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Year: 1981
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Photo Gallery