Spoilers will take the bus.

This psychological thriller is going to hit too close to home. It has the trappings of a horror movie by the way it’s told. A man breaking down from all societal norms and giving in to vengeful rage has been done before, strangely enough often painting them like the hero. This is the angle less explored, with the dominant and violent male being the villain. It’s more akin to today’s mental issues but that is not to say the movie is realistic. Fantasy and horror elements are still there.

(Credit: Solstice Studios)

Unhinged (2020) is directed by Derrick Borte and written by Carl Ellsworth. Rachel (Caren Pistorius) has overslept. She is stressed out being a single mom in the middle of a divorce. She’s late as she drives her son to school and herself to meet a client. Stuck in traffic, and trying to find a faster route she honks at a slow moving driver. Unfortunately for her, the driver (Russell Crowe) is more than willing to take out his rage out on the first person that crosses him. This is a power fantasy, just one that doesn’t rose-colour paint the road-rager as some lone wolf hero, but as a mentally unstable individual lost in his own delusion.

There are plenty of horror elements in the story. The circumstances always seem to favour the bad guy to the point he’s almost omniscient. He appears at the most convenient times, he takes his time killing a man at a diner without the police showing up, he can steal Rachel’s phone from her car without being noticed, he even kills one of her neighbors off screen and steals her car to show up behind her, etc. Jason Voorhees has nothing on this guy.

As for Rachel, very little is done to do her justice until the final act. At the start, she’s careless with her phone, leaving it in her car without a passcode. She doesn’t lock the car. She doesn’t carry a charger. The amount of wrong coincidences that get piled on her are almost like the movie wants us to hate her. Only in the final act, she pulls the all-powerful mom card where she gets pummeled by a hulking man three times her weight and still gets up. Then again, the driver has also been rampaging around after being shot point blank and he’s still ticking. There’s a few times in which the language of the movie betrays the heroine.

Does it work? Yes. I still wanted to see how after all the carnage the whole thing was going to end up. It felt like it was on more solid ground being an urban horror film more than a psychological thriller. Although based in the road rage phenomena, the movie goes over the top working up the tension to its climatic ending. It doesn’t end up with a guy handcuffed, tazed or shot by the police but of course in an unrealistic duel between single mom Rachel and the driver. It’s far more entertaining the less you think about accuracy and go along for the ride. This is not that deep.

Recommended with reservations. For some people, this might be a little too triggering or close to the local news. I took it as a more of a horror film than a realistic psychological thriller. Either way you spin it, it’s legitimately tense and straight forward violent. There’s nothing redeeming about the bad guy, yet he spits out the same level of toxicity that you’ll find in most radical diatribes. And yet at no point, the movie goes for a political stance. Worth a watch if you’re not trying to read too much into it, so mileage might vary.

That will do for now.