26th Nov2018

‘The Unnamable’ Blu-ray Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Charles Klausmeyer, Mark Kinsey Stephenson, Alexandra Durrell, Laura Albert, Eben Ham, Blane Wheatley, Mark Parra, Delbert Spain, Colin Cox, Paul Farmer, Katrin Alexandre | Written and Directed by Jean-Paul Oullette

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Written and directed by Jean-Paul Ouellette, based on the story from legendary horror author H.P. Lovecraft, The Unnamable is one of those films that passed me by growing up. I knew about the film, mainly thanks to the 1992 sequel – released in the UK as The Unnamable Returns – which was heavily, and I do mean heavily, promoted upon it’s release. Hell, it seemed like every movie magazine I read (remember those days?) had ads for The Unnamable Returns and every VHS rental had a trailer for the movie. But at the time I could never track down the original film and I never caught the film on DVD… So this Blu-ray release, from Unearthed Films, is a first-time watch for me.

And what a way to see the film for the first time!

This VHS classic has been given the premium treatment from Unearthed. This Blu-ray release comes from a brand-new 4k scan from the original negative, which has been restored and color corrected and looks absolutely stunning – a far cry from the low-fi and sleazy-looking releases of many an Unearthed Films release. Speaking of which, it would seem that, given Unearthed Films’ previous output, that The Unnamable is an odd choice of release for the company – they’re known for the more “extreme” end of the horror genre. Yet The Unnamable is actually quite a good fit for the company, mainly because it’s as gore-filled as a number of their other releases; opening with a scene featuring a beating heart being torn out of someone’s chest!

The film itself tells the story of a group of college students from Miskatonic University (where else, given this is based on a H.P. Lovecraft story?) who, under pretence of a college initiation, retreat to an early 18th-century mansion for a weekend of lust. Unfortunately the “students” are stalked by a fatalistic female, who delights in tearing the limbs off her human victims to carry out a centuries-old family curse. So what does that mean in real terms? Well, it means a haunted house, a group of horny college students and a monster; aka plenty of boobs and bloodshed!

Very much in the mold of other mid-to-late 80s horror, The Unnamable easily fits in with other films of the day like Dolls and From Beyond – both of which have a similar set-up of people trapped in a house with demonic forces; and Oullette’s film is just as crazy as Stuart Gordon’s From Beyond – ever seen a film where trees save the day? Killer trees yes, but heroic trees? Possessed by the spirit of the Unnamable’s father? Yeah… told you this was crazy! But in a good way. This is 80s horror cinemas after all, where wild ideas were allowed to run free and create wonderful, and beloved, films like this.

Of course the real high point of The Unnamable is the creature effects of the titular character. Kept in the shadows for a lot of the films running time, when the creature is finally revealed in full, the tremendous effects work by R. Christopher Biggs and Camille Calvert (who would both go on to work on much bigger projects, including the Star Trek franchise), is shown in all its glory. Played by dancer Katrin Alexandre, the monsterous girl (whose name is actually Alyda – so much for being unnamable!) is a cloven hoofed winged demon with a surprisingly nice arse and rack, though she definitely would be classed as something of a butter face! It’s an amazingly creepy combination of sexuality and hideousness that, again, fits perfectly into the era – think The Lair of the White Worm, the aforementioned From Beyond, even that other 80s H.P. Lovecraft adaptaion, Re-Animator.

Whilst the movie looks fantastic and Unearthed have done a superb job remastering the film, this release is not without issues – though none of them major. Firstly, there’s an issue with the 5.1 soundtrack which represents itself as an “echo” on the sound effects/foley, but switch to the 2.0 stereo track and everythings fine… It’s an issue that has, frankly, been blown out of proportion – mainly thanks to home cinema aficionados who, if a film is not 100% perfect, will bitch and moan to try get their own way! The other “issue” is the video interviews: all of which are actually Skype video chats between Jay Kay of the Horror Happens radio program and the various cast & crew; and that’s the problem, in this day and age people expect more from an extra feature – especially given how other boutique labels work – and this low-fi method of Skype chats recorded and put onto a disc seems so out of place.

But those are minor issues – at least for me – on what is an otherwise fantastic presentation of a great 80s horror. The Unnamable is a superb start to Unearthed’s new Unearthed Classics line and I’m certainly looking forward to their next releases Nightwish and Dark Side of the Moon (especially the latter, another I haven’t seen in years – since its UK VHS release).

Extras on the Unearthed Films release of The Unnamable include: Video interview with actors, Charles Klausmeyer and Mark Kinsey Stephenson; Video interview with actor, Eben Ham; Video interview with actor, Laura Albert; Video interview with actor, Mark Parra; Video interviews with R. Christopher Biggs, special makeup effects artist and makeup artist, Camille Calvet; and Audio commentary with Charles Klausmeyer, Mark Stephenson, Laura Albert, Eben Ham, Camille Calvet and R. Christopher Biggs.

You can buy your copy of The Unnamable on DVD and Blu-ray now from both mvdshop.com or unearthedfilms.com

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