After starting in Washington D.C. nine years ago Horror Movie Night has expanded to include chapters in Austin, Dallas and Chicago. Horror’s Not Dead’s own Brian Kelley is the originator and programmer of this illustrious weekly Wednesday night tradition which features a “classic” horror film. Each week I will be reviewing/commenting on the past week’s selection so do your best to find the film, most of which have not made it past VHS, and follow along. Better yet, start your own chapter!
Two years ago, long before I started toiling away on these weekly columns, we watched a film called The Unnamable for Horror Movie Night. I tried to remember what it was about a couple weeks ago and, for the life of me, could not recall but the foggiest of possible plots. I knew it was a Lovecraft adaptation and involved college kids and shenanigans at an old, cursed house in the woods. But really, what late 80s horror film didn’t involve that combination? So I crept down into my extensive horror vault and retrieved a copy to re-watch. Immediately it all came flooding back to me. It was a great time to give this another viewing since it was time that HMN braved the sequel from 1993 with the lengthy title The Unnamable II: The Statement of Randolph Carter. This definitely improves upon some of its predecessor’s weaknesses, has fun, but still lacks something to propel it to greatness.
Picking up directly after the events of the first film, the cops and school officials from Lovecraft mainstay Miskatonic University are investigating the murders of a few students at this old home in the middle-of-nowhere. Turns out this house belonged to an former professor named Joshua Winthrop who went missing and legend tells of a crazy being inhabiting the body of his daughter ultimately leading to the demise of the whole clan. Anthropology and folklore student Randolph Carter (Mark Kinsey Stephenson) takes one of his mentors, Professor Warren (John Rhys-Davies), and his good friend who saw the beast responsible, Howard Damon (Charles Klausmeyer), back to the house for another look. In some underground tunnels on the property they find a trapped “unnamable” creature held captive and manage to run it out leaving behind the confused, and naked (!), body of Winthrop’s daughter Alyda (Maria Ford). Now the whole crew heads back to school to try and sort out the whole mess. As Carter and Alyda get closer together it becomes evident that the creature is still out there and coming after them – and more importantly her.
My real problem with the first film is how much of nothing happens. The movie starts strong, gives a glimpse into a world with a possible cool creature, and leaves plenty of room for story. Actually, too much room for story. The whole middle point of the movie is a bunch of people in the dark in this house running from something that we only get to see in the odd, very brief glance. When the creature is unveiled near the end of the last act, it’s a glorious thing. Multiple horns, wings, scaled flesh, goat legs, sharp unruly fangs – just a lovely sight for a horror fan. I understand keeping certain things hidden, and the value of the payoff having waited 75 or 80 minutes, but it sucks when it’s such a cool looking character that you wish could have received more screentime.
Fear not. In this sequel the creature is all over the place! You cannot turn around without have it standing there snarling or quick images of its face popping up in dream sequences. Another improvement here is that the sequel gave more for the show stealer from the previous flick, Randolph Carter, to do. This actor has not done much in his career but you wouldn’t guess it from this roll. Carter is fun and comfortable. Kind of a wimpier, nerdier version of Indiana Jones if you ask me, but maybe I’m just making that correlation because of the Rhys-Davies connection. I love everything about Stephenson and the character he plays. So much in fact that I would kill to see more adventures of Randolph Carter.
Speaking of cast, you cannot really go wrong when you have the previously mentioned Rhys-Davies sharing a screen with the one and only David Warner in the role of the school’s chancellor. But that’s nothing! Our creature is played by the lovely, and quite “nude”, Julie Strain. I put that in quotes because she’s heavily under make-up but you can still see her boobs – even if they are kind of scaled and and unnatural color. Hey, I’m not picky.
On the nudity front there is a bit of sadness to report. While Maria Ford is naked for a large portion of her role, at all times her long hair is strategically placed over the nipples so you don’t really get the best view. There is a time or two where it’s out of the way, but it’s just a damn shame she’s so covered up. Especially seeing as she went on to have a rather prolific career in the softcore world. Sigh. A moment of silence for the boobs that might have been.
This movie is not without its share of ridiculous, in fact it’s kind of based on ridiculous. From the get go Carter notices that the runes mixed in the ancient Necronomicon texts about the creature actually include “rune equations”. Who knew that was a thing? When in the tunnels he and Professor Warren deduce from said equations that they can trick the being out of the young girl’s body by injecting her with insulin and then feeding her some sugar, which Warren just happens to have in his pocket, so she doesn’t die. I wonder if Lovecraft had diabetic unnamable creatures in mind when writing stories many years ago? This is nothing compared to the showdown wherein a wooden chair is used as a major weapon. It’s the best use of a chair I’ve seen in quite some time.
All of this means precisely dick, however, when compared to the wonder that is Officer Debbie (Siobhan McCafferty). This lovely blonde cop starts out quiet and shy, but soon is roaring like a lion. For the first half, if not two-thirds, of the film she rarely speaks and is quite reserved, but suddenly after a brother-in-arms dies by the creature’s hand something changes and she snaps. As she loudly bitches and moans about the creatures, she racks her shotgun and searches angrily only to be answered by scolding condemnation from her Sheriff. Unfortunately for the world this is McCafferty’s only film credit, alongside a few TV appearances. We need more of Debbie!
For whatever reason while The Unnamable is unavailable on DVD, and has never been released on the format, this sequel can be easily picked up online for around $15. I recommend this to not only fans of Lovecraft, but horror fans in general. It has a decent body count and plenty of fun to keep your attention for 100 minutes. And a Corey Feldman doppelganger!
Until next week – I’ll be developing a sitcom based around the exploits of Randolph Carter at Miskatonic University. I envision him traveling out of Arkham often to Dunwich where he keeps Yog-Sothoth chained up as a pet and plenty of Officer Debbie busting college parties.
Body Count: 10
First Death: 47:03
Best Death: Punched through the chest.
Use of “Real Bad Feeling About This” in the Dialog Alert: 47:36
Officer Debbie’s Best Line: “Oh great, it’s a bitch!”
Coming soon to Horror Movie Night (Chronicles are posted one week after screening):
-5/9/12: Judgement Day (1988) aka The Third Hand
-5/16/12: Of Unknown Origin (1983)
-5/23/12: Deadline (1984)
-5/30/12: Memorial Valley Massacre (1988)