directed by Jean-Paul Ouellette
starring Charles Klausmeyer, Mark Kinsey Stephenson, Alexandra Durrell
Unearthed Films/MVD Entertainment
Cult horror writer H.P. Lovecraft’s work was somewhat neglected cinematically. It was much easier to throw a black cat or a pendulum in a movie and claim it was based on the stories of Edgar Allan Poe then to figure out how to portray horrifying geometry or shapeless forms that drive onlookers insane.
Stuart Gordon’s brilliant 1985 Reanimator ended the Lovecraft drought and ushered in a wave of films based on the author’s work, a wave that would crest into a tsunami in the 2000s when internet nerds brought the Cthulhu mythos back into public consciousness.
In 1988, a few years after Reanimator but decades before the Lovecraft renaissance, first-time writer/director Jean-Paul Ouellette adapted the short story The Unnamable, destined to become a well-remembered video store staple. Unearthed Films recently exhumed The Unnamable and released it with a restored picture and tons of extras.
We begin in the Colonial era, where a human couple keeps their demonic child locked in the attic of their home. After the creature devours her father, the entire house is sealed, hopefully for eternity. Centuries later, Miskatonic University students decide the best way to investigate the legends surrounding the house is to spend the night there.
The Unnamable takes aspects of haunted house movies and Lovecraft occult mythology and slathers on a heaping portion of ’80s slasher conventions to create an entertaining low budget horror flick. The female demon is kept off screen for most of the movie, but when she finally appears the creature work is impressive, as are the animal gut-laden gore effects. The actors acquit themselves well, and the overall creepy vibe is sustained throughout the film.
While the over-lit shot on video quality immediately dates the movie to the late ’80s, viewers of a certain age will have nostalgic flashbacks of renting piles of schlocky horror titles for video night. The Unnamable isn’t going to make anyone forget Reanimator or From Beyond, but it’s an ambitious and fun movie that succeeds more than it fails in adapting Lovecraft to the screen.