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Unearthed Classics brings us this H.P. Lovecraft adaptation from 1988 in a nice Blu-ray special edition. Does the movie merit the love? And why are most Lovecraft adaptations sourced from short stories? Could it be, at the heart of it, that Lovecraft is ... unfilmable? Let's have a look-see, shall we?
Drawing inspiration from the success of Reanimator, director Jean-Paul Ouellette uncovers the perilous well of eldritch energy to craft The Unnamable with a touch of humor, a touch of horror, and a whole lot of '80s hairspray. Unlike the source, Lovecraft movies such as this one have tended to rely on over-the-top special effects and gore, rather than the kind of free-floating dread the author specialized in. The setup in this case is a hideous creature locked in an attic for centuries, and the 'Me Era' college students inspired to seek it out, not due to curiosity engendered by a goofy folklore professor, but in the hopes of scaring their dates into a little nookie.
What makes The Unnamable one of those movies that was more likely 'Unwatched' on the video shelf is the improperly mixed humor/horror/college-romance ratio. Professor Randolph Carter (Mark Kinsey Stephenson) takes the Jeffrey Combs (Reanimator) route, finding the humor in his role. But where Combs found his character's mania amusing in its sincerity, Stephenson seems content to craft his performance with the Saved by the Bell template of silliness. With this disconnect in play, most of the movie involves the college kids creeping around the spooky house. Tension and pacing are ably handled, but there's little else going on, and little to keep viewers involved other than the mild relationships developing between the college boys and girls.
You might be asking then why Unearthed Films has resurrected this beast? And that's down to the beast, and one or two scenes of gore. If the movie had been packed to the gills like Stuart Gordon's movies, it would be a classic! The unnamable creature is accomplished (of course) with practical makeup effects, and it's a delight; feral, sexy and creepy. It's the engine that keeps the movie rolling, and when that engine chooses to rip out a boy's throat, it's like the director suddenly became someone else, lingering with loving devotion on flaps of skin and veins spurting blood in a way that would make Lucio Fulci blush. Unfortunately, a fantastic, but underused creature, and one or two great gore effects do not a fantastic film make.
The Unnamable comes out of hiding in a pretty spanky Blu-ray edition from Unearthed Films, even though the movie might have remained undiscovered and only a few people would have lost sleep. An uneven comic tone (that never gels the way it should) finds college students creeping around a haunted house for a while before finally getting killed in sometimes gory fashion by a cool monster. Call it too little, too late if you want, because it sure seems as though the movie could have gone over the top and been a hit. Most horror fans should be satisfied if they merely Rent It.
The Unnamable rushes out of an attic doorway in a 1080p, AVC encoded 1.85.1 ratio widescreen presentation, from a new 4k transfer. This certainly looks worlds better than its previous grubby VHS form, delivering rich colors and deep black levels. The image overall is a bit on the soft side, especially in darker scenes, likely due to how it was originally filmed, but does enough to delineate details in pullover sweaters, big hair, and arterial flow. Film damage is minimal and compression artifacts are not a problem.
English 5.1 DTS-HD Surround Sound is a hot mess, as Foley and special effects audio in particular are plagued by persistent echo and reverb that are pronounced and not present in the dialog. I'd like to proclaim this the first 'Dub Horror Movie' but I don't think that was the intent. Luckily, both 2.0 PCM English Audio Tracks are fine. The standard 2.0 track presents clear dialog and damage free audio elements, while the 'Vintage Audio Track' does the same with the benefit of the 'Grindhouse Experience' (including all the pop and hiss that a good remastering job eliminates, ironic, right?) layered on top.
Unearthed Films lards on a grip of like-kind extras for the true fan. A Commentary Track includes most all of the actors and is a lively party-like affair, which is also its biggest weakness. It's basically room-audio of a bunch of old friends drinking while watching the movie. People frequently talk over each other and are often hard to hear as they reminisce or get another drink from the refrigerator, and are about 30-seconds out-of-sync with the action on the screen. Along the way they do also supply plenty of tidbits involving production of the movie. A Photo Gallery and nice collection of other Unearthed Films Trailers, (plus that Vintage Audio Track option) are also present, while a Series of Interviews, five of them, with varying cast and crew, round out the extras. The interviews consist of approximately 4 hours of material, so in a way, you're getting your money's worth! In another way, the interviews appear to have been done via Skype or some other video phone call, and are at times awkwardly paced, if not exhaustive, so your money's worth should be weighed against your need-to-know and desire for shoestring-quality presentation.
The Unnamable comes out of hiding in a pretty spanky Blu-ray edition from Unearthed Films, even though the movie might have remained undiscovered and only a few people would have lost sleep. An uneven comic tone (that never gels the way it should) finds college students creeping around a haunted house for a while before finally getting killed in sometimes gory fashion by a cool monster. Call it too little, too late if you want, because it sure seems as though the movie could have gone over the top and been a hit. A heavy complement of semi-successful extras further muddy the waters. Most horror fans should be well-satisfied if they merely Rent It.