• Katie Bell

Unhinged (2020)

Oh boy, I am alarmed that I am about to say this, but Unhinged is disappointingly decent. I was keen to see this film based on the trailer, which to me, seems hilarious. If you haven't seen the trailer yet, you can catch it here:

If you don't have the data to watch the trailer, I'll summarise it for you: lady beeps her horn at Rusty, Rusty doesn't like the aggressiveness of the beep, Rusty asks lady to apologise, lady refuses, RUSTY GETS REVENGE. Yeah, the concept seems silly when explained in this way...but this is essentially what the trailer communicates. There is, however, a little more to this movie than that.


Don't get me wrong. Unhinged is by no means brilliant. In fact, let's not pretend that it's anything more than a road safety campaign disguised as a film. However, it's decent and, if you're into the horror or thriller genres, worth a watch.


The film begins by establishing that Rusty is not in a good way. It's 4:03am. He takes his medication, tosses his wedding ring away, and leaves his vehicle to enact some revenge. Rusty's day is only going to get worse though, because he left his window rolled down and it's raining pretty heavily. That driver's seat will be soaked when he's done with his crimes.


A few hours later, Rachel (Caren Pistorius) is driving her son Kyle (Gabriel Bateman) to school. She slept in, they're running late and she's been fired by her best client. It's not a great day. Of course, she encounters Rusty in her travels and he fails to move when the light turns green. She honks at Rusty (three times), before aggressively overtaking him. He catches up and gives her several opportunities to apologise, and despite Kyle's encouragement, she refuses. Rusty's face shifts into something truly menacing, before he says, "I don't even think you know what a bad day is. But you're going to find out." ...And she definitely does.


I'm going to stop here and discuss something controversial. When I first watched this trailer, I empathised with Rachel. She's a woman, travelling in her old Volvo with her son, when a big man in a big truck pulls up beside her and tries to make her apologise for beeping. However, upon watching this film, I felt little to no empathy for her, which maybe makes me cold-hearted. There is no doubt though, that Rachel is rude, doesn't take responsibility for her own actions and is just a poor driver. A line that pretty much sums up her character is, "Eight miles, you know. That's it. What takes ten minutes on a Sunday takes thirty minutes on a Monday and wrecks your career." Kyle, who I find to be very likeable, then pipes up with, "Didn't you oversleep?" Love your work, Kyle. To be fair, Rachel's poor attitude and lack of responsibility don't excuse all of the things that Rusty does, but it's clear that Rachel is not supposed to represent a hero. I believe, her character exists to represent the drivers in the audience, who should essentially learn from her poor choices.


Thematically, this film, as I've already stated, is about road safety. Rachel honks aggressively, drives outside of lanes, talks on the phone whilst driving (she even removed the lock on the phone, so that she could do this with greater ease), and additionally, she asks her son to look for an iPad while she's driving. Although she doesn't explicitly tell him to take off his seatbelt, he does, and she doesn't tell him to put it back on again until well after he's found it. It's not just Rachel though. Several people operate their phones whilst driving, and an extra is seen driving a vehicle and applying make-up at the same time. In addition to all of this, towards the beginning of Unhinged, we watch a montage of road-rage-induced car accidents. The music steadily crescendos throughout, until the narration is drowned out and we reach the climax of the montage. This film is laser-focused on its central theme, and although it's simple, it's very effective.


In terms of the acting, Rusty has his "if looks could kill" face, handled. He does a great job at portraying 'The Man'. Caren Pistorious is also great to watch, and for the most part so is Gabriel Bateman. I wasn't entirely happy with Bateman's reaction when he hears a death over the phone, and does very little. However, I'm probably being picky. Likewise, I wasn't thrilled when Andy has his head slammed into a table by Rusty (as seen in the trailer), and many of the extras in the diner pull out their phones, or stare on in silence. Yes, some do duck for cover under their tables, but most don't. Rusty is terrifying in this moment, and it is very hard to read what he plans to do next. I imagine that people would be fearing for their lives, but they just didn't seem to be - particularly all of the people who are filming Rusty. I understand that the purpose of this movie is to point out the selfishness and lack of accountability seen in people of the 21st century. However, I'd still argue, that even in these times, the human instinct to preserve one's life, probably still trumps the human instinct to record something for the 'gram. Maybe I'm out of touch though...


The plot may be simple, but Unhinged has a clear purpose and it certainly achieves it. People do weave in traffic, honk aggressively, talk on the phone whilst driving, apply make-up behind the wheel and more. Derrick Borte sets out to demonstrate the consequences that such actions can have. Although it's unlikely that Rusty will come after you in a pick-up, some of the other near misses that occur onscreen are enough to put anyone off engaging in these poor habits. It's not a great film, but it's definitely better than what the trailer leads you to believe. If you're looking for a thriller to watch in the cinema, then this is certainly an option to consider. I probably won't see it a second time, but I didn't mind watching it the first.

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