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Unseen, The

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Product Details

  • Actors: Barbara Bach, Sydney Lassick, Karen Lamm, Douglas Barr, Lois Young
  • Directors: Danny Steinmann
  • Writers: Danny Steinmann, Kim Henkel, Michael L. Grace, Nancy Rifkin, Stan Winston
  • Producers: Anthony B. Unger, Don Behrns, Howard Goldfarb
  • Format: Anamorphic, Color, DVD-Video, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: All RegionsAll Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • MPAA Rating: R
  • Studio: Funimation! Unidisc
  • Release Date: Aug. 19 2008
  • Run Time: 89 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • ASIN: B0019D3DJM
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #61,380 in DVD (See Top 100 in DVD)

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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Barton on June 14 2013
Format: DVD
This movie on Blu-ray is great to watch in high definition. It is great to see a classic scary movie in full high definition.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 26 reviews
23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
this horror masterpiece works on many levels Aug. 8 2008
By Thomas M. Sipos - Published on
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
The Unseen is another of my personal favorites, outstanding on every level. Yes, the story is basic Horror Film 101. Three TV newsgals drive to Solvang, California to do a puff piece on a folk festival. All the local hotels are booked so, while searching for a hotel outside of town, they stumble upon one run by Ernest Keller (Sydney Lassick).

Turns out the hotel is a museum. No matter. Ernest invites the newsgals to stay at his house, with him and his wife, Virginia (Lelia Goldoni). Unbeknownst to the newsgals, husband and wife are also brother and sister. And lurking in the basement, crawling through the air ducts, is the spawn of their unholy union ... unseen!

Well, you'll see him eventually. But before you do, the body count mounts! (You know how those mutant spawn-of-incest retards get when they see nekkid women passing by their air ducts.) Actually, the body count doesn't mount by all that much. There are only three newsgals, after all. But there's enough in The Unseen to make up for the low score.

Yes, The Unseen's premise and story are easy to mock. They sound so formulaic. Yet the film's execution raises it to a masterpiece of the formula.

Barbara Bach (still the best Bond girl -- The Spy Who Love Me) is the lead newsgal, Jennifer Fast. Granted, Bach's acting range is limited, but she is stunning to behold. And she improves in the final half hour, when all that's required is to scream and cower. Bach can deliver if a script is within her range; she was dead-on as the smart, stoic Soviet spy in the Bond film.

Fortunately for Bach, she spends the first hour surrounded by poor performers, so she looks fine by comparison. Bach's love interest, Tony (Doug Barr), is the sort of jejune Ken doll that Mary Richards always dated on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. The other two newsgals, Karen Lamm and Lois Young, are no better.

As is often the case in horror, it's the villains that show range, depth, and emotional strength. Sydney Lassick is wonderfully creepy as Ernest. Smarmy with the newsgals, babbling giddy nonsense. His unstable volatility with his family pivots from giddy to cold to cruel to violently hysterical. Dark emotions simmer beneath Lassick's assumed demeanors, erupting when provoked.

Lelia Goldoni's Virginia is an aging mouse of a woman. Yet she too can erupt into hysteria, or show tender compassion to her mutant son.

But it is Stephen Furst (Animal House) who shines as Junior Keller ... the unseen. One critic described Junior as a "murderous, retarded, overweight, full-grown baby." That's kinda what Junior looks like, but not really what he is. Having seen The Unseen a dozen or so times, I suspect he kills the women by accident. He merely wants a closer look (at Lamm's golden hair, for instance), and pulls too hard. A child who doesn't know his own strength. And he's not a "full-grown baby," he just looks like one because he's fat, dressed in soiled diaper-like rags, and he can't talk. He can only grunt.

Okay actors. Here's an assignment: Portray a sympathetic mutant retard killer, while wearing soiled diaper-like rags, in makeup that makes you look like some ugly incestuous spawn from Deliverance. And all you're allowed to do is grunt. Grunt and stomp and pound and grunt. And oh yeah, try and be nuanced and subtle.

Furst does it.

His Junior is ugly and frightening, yet we detect his motivations beneath his grunting and stomping. His frustrated ineffectual attempts to communicate with Bach and recruit her for his playmate. His love for mom. His fear, then anger, at dad. However repulsive and scary and unsympathetic Junior initially appears, his demise is poignant. I hesitate to equate Furst's Junior with Karloff's Monster, but I also hesitate to dismiss the comparison out of hand.

The script is tightly structured, its elements falling neatly together despite more complexity than cursorily appears. You can view The Unseen many times, and still discover new things to appreciate.

E. Michael Jones, in his Monsters From the Id: The Rise of Horror in Fiction and Film, interprets all horror as a monster (nemesis) spawned by a transgression of God's (sexual) moral code. The Unseen easily allows for that interpretation. Junior is born of incest, most likely rape. Bach contemplates an abortion because she is not ready to marry Barr until he matures. She is rescued moments after Barr returns (having changed his mind), thereby affirming their mutual love (and by implication, obviating the need for an abortion).

Jones is a social conservative. But a left-feminist could interpret The Unseen from an opposing view: as a condemnation of patriarchy. Junior is (most likely) the result of rape. Goldoni's father had wanted Junior aborted, so perhaps it was Goldoni's "choice" to birth Junior (although maybe it was the domineering Lassick's choice). Lassick oppresses both his wife/sister and son, until her self-liberation. It is Goldoni who saves Bach (Barr tries, but fails).

Both interpretations are justifiable. Indeed, the deceptively simple story elements mesh so nicely, one could fill a lecture hall with politically diverse academics and spend a semester conferencing on The Unseen's "real meaning."

Don't forget to invite some Freudians. Lassick's dad tried to castrate him for raping sis. So Lassick killed dad, then married sis and had Junior. The mummified dad is kept in the museum (shades of Norman Bates).

Lassick's memories of that fateful day is a nice example of pragmatic aesthetics. The actor playing the father is not present, just his voiceover within Lassick's guilty conscience. It's not only cheaper to film with one less actor, it works within the story. Lassick sits on a chair, talking to a voiceover of his dad. The camera pans and cross-cuts as dad's "character" is created by mementos, voiceover, and Lassick's frightened responses.

Mise-en-scene, lighting, and editing are all stellar in The Unseen, even if at times obvious and by-the-book. A sudden rainstorm when the story darkens. The cross-cutting between Goldoni's killing of a chicken and Junior's killing of a woman. The flickering electrical light upon our first seeing "the unseen" Junior. The quickening cross-cutting about the museum (and cat) leading to a slow revelation of the mummy. The murky atmospheric lighting in the museum in contrast to the cheerful brightness of Solvang.

Solvang is a nice touch. Low-budget horror films are forever seeking ways to separate themselves from the pack. Solvang is an actual town founded along old Dutch lines, with Dutch folk festivals and all. This locale, while not integral to the story, provides a fresh backdrop to horror. I told you The Unseen succeeds on every level.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Family Secret... July 30 2010
By Bindy Sue Frønkünschtein - Published on
Format: DVD
THE UNSEEN has a lot going for it. Sydney Lassick (ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST, CARRIE) is perfectly maniacal as the main baddie. Barbara Bach does a serviceable job in her TV news reporter role. The story, while simple, is nonetheless adequate, and the suspense builds nicely. Obviously, the mystery of who (what?) THE UNSEEN is makes up most of this tale. Many have spilled the beans already, so I'll just add that Stephen Furst (ANIMAL HOUSE) is quite good as the title character. What this movie lacks in bloody mayhem, it more than makes up for in the insanity department! The motivations of the "family" are very dark indeed. This ain't THE WALTONS or THE CLEAVERS! Check out this wacky, 80s head-cheeeze today...
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Unique and Creepy March 13 2011
By Dayna Newman - Published on
Format: DVD
The Unseen is an interesting movie,I wouldn't really call it a slasher because there wasn't that much blood and virtually no gore.
It's more of a thriller/Horror.

Sydney Lassick plays a creepy old perverted man as he does so well,he and his very nervous subservient sister are hiding something in the basement and the three women that stop at their Inn for the night are about to find out just what it is they're hiding.

Stephen Furst who's biggest role was in Animal House plays "The Unseen" which is really the deformed son and product of the incestuous relationship between brother and sister.Out of shame they have hidden him in the basement.He is a full grown man but acts like a baby and crawls around in dirty under wear,the problem is he loves to play with the ladies but he gets very upset when they scream,problem being it's hard not to scream when they see a deformed man crawling around with a teddy bear in dirty underwear drooling so when he tries to keep them from screaming or plays too rough with them he ends up killing the poor things.

The beautiful Barbara Bach of Bond Girl fame plays the heroine,she and her two girlfriends are staying at the Inn and when the others start to disappear she gets nosy and when she goes missing her boyfriend Handsome "Doug Barr" who was Lee Majors sidekick on The fall Guy pulls out all the stops to try and find her.Will he find her in time?

You will have to watch and see.
I've seen this movie about six times,it's somewhat of a novelty and I see it as a cult classic.
There are some very good scenes and some freaky moments as well.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I Have Seen The Unseen! April 21 2009
By Stanley Runk - Published on
Format: DVD
Sorry, Puzzle Box, I watched it!

I did watch the film, The Unseen, and the character referred to as "The Unseen" is indeed seen near the end of the film, so the title is kind of pointless if you know what I mean. This early 80s horror flick has three chicks shacking up at Sydney Lassick's place when they find themselves stranded in a small town. Lassick and his wife have a homicidal mutant man-child living with them that takes a liking to the ladies. While I've definitely seen worse, this one didn't do much for me(though I probably liked it more than Puzzle Box did). I think what I enjoyed most about it was Lassick, who's always a hit if you want someone a bit oddball and creepy. He definitely has a few "I want MY cigarettes!!!" moments here. Otherwise the film is rather goreless and bland, nor is it creepy or atmospheric enough to qualify as psychological horror either. And it's brought to you by director Danny Steinman, who is responsible for the underrated and often trashed Friday the 13th Part 5, the fun and trashy revenge flick, Savage Streets, and my personal fave, the 70s porno flick , High Rise! The Unseen may be of interest to folks who love 80s horror and are trying to see everything they can.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Not nearly as good as my rating would intimate, but you can't stop watching... Dec 23 2010
By Robert Beveridge - Published on
Format: DVD
The Unseen (Danny Steinmann, 1981)

I can just imagine the concept meeting for this bad boy.

Tony Unger: what's the single least terrifying town in America?
Danny Steinmann: [gives it a little thought] ...Solvang.
Tony Unger: you mean that little Dutch burg an hour or so up 101?
Danny Steinmann: yeah, that's the place.
Tony Unger: betcha fifty bucks you can't write a horror movie set in Solvang. You come up with it, I'll produce.
Danny Steinmann: you're on.

Tony Unger was, for fifteen years, a pretty solid producer; his movies didn't cause any earthquakes, but they made money (The Magic Christian, Force 10 from Navarone, et al.), and when you're a producer, that's success. Steinmann was a writer/director with one credit to his name, a Harry Reems vehicle from back in '73, and he wanted to break into the mainstream. The creepy-monster slasher flick was huge at the time, and it seemed like the way to do it. So why not take a backwoods-style horror flick (remember it was the end of the seventies, and Deliverance was still very much on everyone's collective mind) and stick it in the middle of America's least terrifying town? The result is The Unseen, and while the mainstream success Steinmann was looking for eluded him (he directed just two more films, the Linda Blair vehicle Savage Streets and the fifth movie in the Friday the 13th franchise, which would have been enough to kill anyone's career), and after a nasty bike accident, he retired. The Unseen has faded into obscurity in the thirty years since its release, but it's actually not a bad little slasher; the backwoods plays surprisingly well in Solvang, and casting the great Sydney Lassick as the ominous instrument that sets everything in motion was a stroke of genius. Whereas the late character actor was usually cast either in comic films or as the comic relief in horror flicks, every once in a while someone gave him a bit of headway, and he always ran with it. Sydney Lassick was either a troubled, troubled guy, or knew enough of them that he had it down to a science.

Jennifer (Barbara Bach, the Bond Girl from The Spy Who Loved Me) and Karen (Thunderbolt and Lightfoot's Karen Lamm in her final big-screen appearance) Fast are a reporter/camerawoman team at a Los Angeles TV station. Along with their pal Vicki (Newsies' Lois Young), they're headed up to Solvang to cover the Dutch Festival. When they get there, they find out there was a scheduling mix-up at the hotel and their rooms aren't available. And since it's the Dutch Festival, the entire town is sold out. They stop at a local hotel-lookin' place, only to find out it's a museum, but the overly-obsequious caretaker, Ernest Keller (Lassik, best-known for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest), tells them he's got a couple of spare rooms in his house, and they're welcome to bunk down there. They follow him back to the homestead, where we're introduced to his mousy wife, Virginia (Leile Goldoni, just coming off a big win in Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but perhaps best-remembered for Cassavettes' Shadows; incidentally, she's the only principal castmember who still has a career, as most of the others are dead; Bach retired in 1986), and there's something very, very odd about her. Still, they count their blessings and pass it off. The sisters head back to town to cover the vent, while Vicki, who's not feeling well, stays behind to take a hot bath. At which point we find out not only that Ernest is quite the perv, but that the house has murderous secrets of its own...

Horror movies in the seventies and early eighties were kind of like porn during the same time; you could get away with a whole lot that people would look twice (or more) at now. For example, while a number of horror movies hint at the incest thing, The Unseen comes right out and says it. There was also some thought given to interracial relationships, as well, a lot more controversial in 1980 than now (Karen has an abusive boyfriend who pops up now and again; IMDB reports that the original role was envisioned for Carl Weathers). You don't pop such things down in your average chick flick, and there's no time for them in an action movie, what's an enterprising director to do? Horror, obviously! You've gotta give the film points for pushing some envelopes here.

Steinmann himself was very unhappy with cuts that were mandated by the studio (and/or the MPAA; the film was banned for years in both Finland and Norway even as released), and recused himself from a scriptwriting credit. One wonders what a directors' cut would look like. If I had the money, I'd shell out to hire Steinmann to put it together myself, assuming the editing-room floor footage still exists somewhere. But he overplayed his hand, I think; what's here isn't bad at all. There are some fine twists at the end, even if they do get dragged out way too long, and the one character I haven't mentioned in this review (played, no less, by an unrecognizable Stephen Furst--yes, Flounder from Animal House!) makes the last quarter of the movie really, really fun. But even aside from that, it's a rare chance to see Sydney Lassick, who spent most of his career as a character actor, get enough screen time to really develop a character, and he does a fine job indeed. And I just talked myself into upping my original rating of this by a full star. You want to see it. *** ½

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