Last year, between the two of us, we watched an average of 317 movies.
This year our goal is to top that by watching at least one a day.
And as an extra special torture, we've decided to write about all of them.

14 May 2008

The Unnamable, dir. Jean-Paul Ouellette (1988)

NIKKI says:
Here's one I remember from way back. When I first started getting into movies, I found I had sort of an uncanny recall talent for names, dates, images. This is one I remember intimately, from the name above the title right down to the design of the creature's teeth (not unlike Murnau's Nosferatu character). From then on I heard the name "Lovecraft" and I remembered this movie and the horrible beast on the video packet.

I can't remember, though, if I actually saw the whole film back then. I know I rented Basket Case 2 and Body Parts, but I can't specifically remember taking this one home. I wonder if that's because I didn't, because I found the creature just too scary?

I do remember watching this with Steve back in America. I enjoyed it then and I still do now. It's campy, cheesy fun, and it succeeds because its characters are so endearing. Specifically, of course, Randolph Carter and his timid pal, Howard. They're so fun to watch that you forget the '90s cheesiness and just run with the craziness (that eventually involves a freakish pony-woman biting people in the face).

So Carter tells his friends the story of the woman in the 1800s who gave birth to the frightening and "unnamable" thing. He tells them it was locked away only to escape one day and slaughter the family. One of the friends decides he wants to spend the night in the house for laughs and winds up on the wrong side of the legend -- ie. face-bitten by scary pony-thing. Others go in for the same reasons, and similar things happen to them. Carter lets Howard save the day and seek out their friend.

It's quite slow moving at times, but the frights are good. And the characters are really fun to watch. I'm giving this one a good mark for visuals, writing, and reminding me of the days when I read the Magnum Video new releases book like it was an instruction manual for life.


STEVE says:
After Re-animator, I watched pretty much any movie with the name H.P. Lovecraft attached to it. There would be some successes (From Beyond, The Resurrected, a couple episodes of Night Gallery - Pickman's Model and Cool Air) and there would be some tragedies (The Curse, Cthulhu Mansion, the Re-animator sequels). The Unnamable falls into the former category.

It's not a great movie, nor a great adaptation - but the story it's taken from is no bell-ringer, either. In fact, the entire story takes place in the scene following the credits, where Randolph Carter and his friend Joel Manton are discussing the concept of "the unnamable". It's one of those Lovecraft stories where the narrator reflects on a conversation,briefly glossing over the details, then throws a monster at us in the end.

Like From Beyond before it, The Unnamable uses the story as a springboard and speculates what may have happened afterwards. It borrows bits here and there from the Cthulhu Mythos, and of course the Necronomicon makes an appearance, so we're always well-aware that we're in Lovecraft territory.

There are some really gruesome effects, and the Unnamable creature of the title (which happens, quite contrarily, to be named Alyda Winthrop) is quite good. But it's Mark Kinsey Stephenson's Randolph Carter that makes this one worth watching, even through the somewhat plodding direction and typical haunted house storyline that comprises most of the film's running time. His dry delivery of "That's to be expected," when informed of the deaths of several of his friends at the hands of the Unnamable beast is at once both shocking and hilarious.

As adaptations go, The Unnamable would score pretty low marks, but the effects and Carter - not to mention his erstwhile sidekick Howard Damon - are reason enough to bump it up a bit.


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