The Unnamable - MVD Unearthed Classics Blu-Ray Review
Release Date: October 23, 2018
Starring: Mark Kinsey Stephenson, Charles Klausmeyer, Alexandra Durrell, Laura Albert and Katrin Alexandre.
Directed by: Jean-Paul Ouellette
SYNOPSIS: From the mind of legendary horror author H.P. Lovecraft comes the long out-of-print classic film THE UNNAMABLE. This special collector's edition features a new 4k restoration and a multitude of bonus features.
College students from Miskatonic University who retreat to an early 18th-century mansion for a weekend of lust are stalked by a fatalistic female in this horror film based on a story by Lovecraft. The demon delights in tearing the limbs off her human victims to carry out a centuries-old family curse.
REVIEW: After recently writing an article praising physical media and the enthusiasm with which specialist Blu-Ray companies are making up for the deficit in released content since the age of VHS, I would like nothing more than to praise the film The Unnamable and applaud MVD for digging it out of obscurity.
While I will never say that a film shouldn’t be released, they all should, there’s a market for everything, The Unnamable is sadly not a “lost cult classic”.
Firstly it already has a retroactively difficult job of trying to stand even shoulder high with some of the H.P. Lovecraft/Stuart Gordon films that have had a long shelf life and maintain a rich, loyal audience. This is none more obvious than with the cast. While a lot of the indie or semi-indie films of the 80s VHS boom gave us either stars or character actors that still work and do the convention circuit today, it’s immediately glaringly obvious that Mark Kinsey Stephenson, here playing Lovecraft favourite character Randolph Carter, is no Jeffrey Combs.
Before everyone shouts at me for unfairly comparing this film to a far more popular Lovecraft inspired franchise - that I am way more familiar with - I mention this because the film needs a Combs-like actor, even a budget-Combs like actor. In the hands of someone more dynamic as Randolph Carter, you would be able to, more easily, see passed the film’s other short comings. You’d have a central performance to lead you through the plodding pacing, unimaginative art direction, wooden acting, confusing spacial awareness and layout of the ‘haunted house’, the insane decision to make the, mostly wood, house appear “echoey” by doubling up on every sound effect awkwardly but not the voices, the rough editing and more.
I am not a so-bad-it’s-good guy and can’t watch a film ironically - although I am sure some will get something out of The Unnamable in this regard. I am looking to be entertained or, at least, intrigued and give everything a chance on its own merits. The film was made in three weeks from a script that was written in seven days based on a very short story and by a director and group of actors who hadn’t worked much beforehand and haven’t worked much since. I would genuinely love to say that this shambolic crew rallied round and made the undiscovered, low budget, masterpiece of 80s horror but it was not to be.
What plus points there are to the film are in the gore sequences, which, while too few and far between, are delightfully graphic and fairly imaginative and in the monster which we, sadly, see too little of - this may have to do with the fact that it took 9 hours to put Katrin Alexandre in all the creature make-up. Out of a three week shoot that’s a long time to sit around and wait for your creature to appear. When it does though, the effect is impressive.
While I am not overly familiar with the writings of H.P. Lovecraft, I know what they entail and the other area where I thing The Unnamable holds up is maintaining more Lovercraftian lore and features passages from the Lovecraft Necronomicon as well as some mythology about where the monster is from. This is sure to delight those that chastise the Stuart Gordon films and others who contemporise or shy away from the deeper mythology of Lovecraft.
I think in the end though my disappointment with The Unnamable may partly come down to my expectations going in but when those expectations simply amount to “oh I hope this is some weird and groovy 80s monster movie with some interesting choices in it”, I am not sure I am entirely to blame.
Lots of films were made in the 80s and early 90s by plucky groups of people, quickly, with one or two locations, gore effects, a cobbled together score and a monster or two but The Unnamable is proof that you need a certain something, a certain ingredient, a performance, a directorial flourish, a graphic scene people talk about 20 years later… something, anything to make the difference between “beloved horror franchise” and “long out-of-print oddity”.
BLU-RAY REVIEW: Luckily the thing I can praise is the work MVD has done on this release. The film looks so much better than it deserves, with a, crisp, clear, remastered 4K image, not too much grain, a nicely mastered soundtrack and good balance between the light and shadows. The colours are rich and vibrant, playing to the films strength of gore scenes and an impressive monster. The cover artwork is amazing and the list of extras incredibly comprehensive. For anyone picking up this disc who first saw the film on VHS and have long been waiting for its reissue then MVD’s Unearthed Classics Blu-Ray will not disappoint.
4K Scan with color correction and restoration from the original negative.
5.1 DTS-HD Surround Sound, 2.0 PCM
Video Interview with actors Charles Klausmeyer & Mark Kinsey Stephenson
Video Interview with actor Eben Ham
Video Interview with actress Laura Albert
Video Interview with Mark Parra
Video Interviews with R. Christopher Biggs special makeup effects artist & make up artist Camille Calvet
Audio Commentary with Charles Klausmeyer, Mark Stephenson, Laura Albert, Eben Ham, Camille Calvet, R. Christopher Biggs
Run Time: 87:00 mins
Number of Discs: 1
Year of Production: 1988
Territory: NORTH AMERICA
The Unnamable is available to buy on Blu-Ray, DVD or stream on Amazon Prime