*** ½ Out of 5
Tagline- For These Many Years It Has Been Down There Breathing, Eating, Growing, Hiding, Waiting. Waiting Until Now It Has Been….
Release Date- September, 1981
Running Time- 92-Minutes
Writer/Director- Peter Foleg (Danny Steinmann)
Starring- Barbara Bach, Sydney Lassick, Karen Lamm, Doug Barr, Lelia Goldoni
The Unseen was released in 1981 (though some listings have it as 1980) and was written and directed by Peter Foleg who is actually Danny Steinmann best known for his exploitation cult classic Savage Streets & Friday the 13th: A New Beginning. The Unseen was Steinmann’s directorial debut (not counting the porn flick he made High Rise). Steinmann may not go down as one of the great filmmakers, but I kinda like his work. Savage Streets is a fun and at times a bit sleazy exploitation film and even Friday the 13th: A New Beginning has more of a sleazy feel and is an exploitation film in my opinion and while its really no different than the past 4 the exploitation twist gives the film it’s own identity. Steinmann’s Friday the 13th sequel often draws poor reviews since Jason isn’t the killer, but I find it enjoyable. Of the three films Steinmann made from a production standpoint I’d say the Unseen was the best of his work, but I would rate it behind Savage Streets and Friday the 13th: A New Beginning in terms of enjoyment, but with that said the Unseen is still an entertaining if not heavily flawed film.
Despite my 3.5 rating I can’t fully recommend the Unseen, but it has this 80s B-Movie charm going for it. There really isn’t a whole lot of violence and when there is unlike most films of the time it features almost no gore. A lot of films at this time used gore and nudity as a gimmick of sorts and that’s another thing this film lacks. While there is a scene with full frontal nudity its quite brief and not exploitive like Steinmann’s other two films. In many ways this sort of feels like the gothic horror films of the 70s. For the most part the Unseen is a solid film, but the final act is when things get a little sloppy and overly long.
Reporter Jennifer Fast (Bach) along with two of her co-workers head out to cover a festival in a small California city, but upon arriving they can’t seem to find a hotel. They end up staying at the house of Ernest Keller (Lassick) the older kindly museum owner. Unaware to the girls, Keller has sinister plans awaiting them from something locked in the cellar.
The film credits list Peter Foleg as the screenwriter as well as a credit for the story and Stan Winston and Tom Burman also get a story credit, but the film poster lists Foleg along with Michael L. Grace, Kim Henkel, Nancy Rifkin and the screenplay is credited to Michael L. Grace. I’m gonna go based on the screen credits with Peter Foleg as the writer. The script is fairly decent for a film of this type and from its era. While characters can lack depth they however fairly entertaining. Rather than focus on teenagers or characters in their early 20s, the characters are adults and also deal with adult issues. The screenplay overall is fairly decent and while nothing great it serves its purpose.
As director Danny Steinmann delivers a fairly well made film that is often dubbed an exploitation film, but like I said I wouldn’t label it one. The pace of the film can be a little slow, but it has some eerie atmosphere and mystery, which help keep the Unseen interesting. Steinmann does deliver some decent suspense and overall he makes a good film that could have been a bit more. Like I said the final act is when things start to unravel a bit as once we see the Unseen the film has a bit of unintentional comedy or perhaps it was intentional? Either way as it goes on the Unseen gets a bit silly, but the film still remains a decent watch.
Overall the Unseen is a solid enough film, but had the potential to be more; with some eerie atmosphere and a nice little mystery the Unseen works well until the final act when it runs out of steam. I still would recommend this, but don’t expect anything great, but when all is said and done its a good watch despite the somewhat sluggish pacing.