• Unnamable (Unearthed Films) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Unearthed Films
    Released on: October 23rd, 2018.
    Director: Jean-Paul Ouellette
    Cast: Charles Klausmeyer, Mark Kinsey Stephenson, Alexandra Durrell, Laura albert, Eben Ham, Blane Wheatley, Mark Parra
    Year: 1988
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    The Unnamable – Movie Review:

    The Unnamable, directed by Jean-Paul Ouellette in 1988 and based on the story of the same name by H.P. Lovecraft, opens with scene where an older, bearded man Joshua Winthrop (Delbert Spain) speaks authoritatively to an unseen creature that then proceeds to rip out his heart. Two hundred years later, Randolph Carter (Mark Kinsey Stephenson) hangs out with two Miskatonic University classmates, Joel Manton (Mark Parra) and Howard Damon (Charles Klausmeyer), discusses the possibility of a folk story wherein a man gets so scared by a creature that his image is basically permanently burned into glass. Randolph dismisses is but Joel figures there might be something to it. When he learns that the Winthrop house is right next door, he decides to spend the night there and see what happens.

    The next morning, Howard expresses his concern about the fact that Joel hasn’t returned, eventually deciding to go in after him. Meanwhile, frat boys John (Blane Wheatley) and Bruce (Eben Ham) convince two freshmen girls, curvy blonde Wendy (Laura Albert, who has done a lot of work as a stuntwoman but also appeared in Stone Cold and Stephen Sayadian's Dr. Caligari) and super cute exchange student Tanya (Alexandra Durrell), two meet them at the same house to ‘help them’ with an upcoming sorority pledge. This won’t end well…

    A reasonably atmospheric mix of slasher movie tropes and creature feature hijinks, The Unnamable works pretty well. The film might wear its modest budget on its sleeve - the opening scenes showing the house are clearly done with miniatures and the sets used for the bulk of the film are rather minimalist – but the effects work featured in the film is generally really strong. The creature design in particular is quite impressive, our monster looking very much the type of otherworldly beast that could have come from Lovecraft’s imagination. It’s a fearsome creature, covered in pristine white fur, sporting ominous and demonic hooves, oddly exposed human-like breasts and a cat-like face topped with sinister horns. Anytime that the monster is on screen, the movie is gold. There are also some frequent doses of solid gore littered throughout the movie. The kills scenes in The Unnamable are pretty intense and the effects work from R. Christopher Biggs (who got his start working on Roger Corman productions like Galaxy Of Terror and Forbidden World) is often times pretty damn impressive.

    The direction from Jean-Paul Ouellette (who also directed the sequel to this film but just as importantly served as second unit director on The Terminator) is good. The movie is paced quite well and clearly Ouellette, who also penned the screenplay, is smart enough not to overreach. By keeping the bulk of the story confined to the house he’s able to create an effectively eerie location for the story, full of shadows and ripe with macabre atmosphere. The cinematography from Tom Fraser (who not only shot Chopper Chicks In Zombietown but also Weird Al Yankovic’s I Love Rocky Road music video!) captures this nicely. If the score from David Bergeaud (who has since gone on to a lot of TV and video game work but who should always hold a special place in our hearts for scoring College Kickboxers) is a little soft sounding, so be it – production values are otherwise just fine.

    As to the acting? Mark Kinsey Stephenson appears to be channeling Jeffrey Combs at times but at least he does it well. He’s pretty entertaining here, smug enough that you don’t really like him but always entertaining. Mark Parra disappears too early to make much of an impression but he’s fine in his part, while Charles Klausmeyer, essentially our hero, has a likeable ‘average Joe’ quality to him that serves his character well. Eben Ham and Blane Wheatley both play their jock/frat boy characters well enough. They’re written as clichés and that’s exactly how the actors deliver them, but it works. Laura Albert is well cast as the token hot chick (being an actual hot chick helps here) and she does fine with the material given her. Alexandra Durrell is really good as the exchange student. Very cute, likeable – almost meek at times but when it all hits the fan she proves to be much stronger than we expected.

    All in all, this works really well. It might not be the most Lovcraftian of Lovecraft adaptations but it treats the source material with enough respect and, more importantly than anything else, it proves to be a really entertaining, well-made horror picture.

    The Unnamable – Blu-ray Review:

    Unearthed Films brings The Unnamable to Blu-ray framed at 1.85.1 widescreen in AVC encoded 1080p high definition on a 50GB disc taken from a 4k scan of unspecified elements. The movie is a bit soft looking but compared to how it’s appeared in the past? This is a pretty big improvement. The movie never had a legitimate DVD release in North America but this Blu-ray looks solid. Some of the darker scenes are a little murky but this looks to have more to do with how the movie was shot than anything else. Color reproduction is quite strong, though it’s a given that since so much of the movie takes place in a dimly lit rundown house, this isn’t the most colorful film ever made. There are no problems with compression, edge enhancement or noise reduction and there’s very little print damage here. This would appear to be a pretty accurate representation of the source material, fans of the film should be quite pleased with how the movie looks on Blu-ray.

    English language audio options are provided in DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, LPCM 2.0 and ‘grindhouse’ LPCM 2.0. There are no alternate language or subtitle options provided. The 5.1 mix here has issues due to a conversion issue, there’s audible reverb and a strange echo effects noticeable throughout the track. Unearthed Films has addressed the issue but it doesn’t appear at this point that it’s able to be fixed. The grindhouse track sounds like the other LPCM 2.0 track, but it hasn’t been cleaned up so it’s got some hiss and pop noticeable throughout – it’s an interesting novelty for those who want it.

    So that leaves the standard LPCM 2.0 track, right? Thankfully, it’s just fine. Dialogue is always easy to understand and follow and there’s a reasonable amount of depth here. The track is free of any hiss or distortion and anytime the creature screams, there’s some pretty solid power behind the mix. Those who need a 5.1 track for the film might be disappointed but if you’re good with the original mix, this track works without any problems.

    Extras on the disc are plentiful, starting with an audio commentary with cast members Charles Klausmeyer, Mark Stephenson, Laura Albert and Eben Ham, effects artists Camille Calvet and R. Christopher Biggs. Lots of good information here as we learn about the locations, the makeup and gore effects, what went into bringing the creature to life, what it was like spending so much time in an ‘old, dark house,’ how everyone got along on set and what it was like working with Jean-Paul Ouellette (who is suspiciously absent from any of the supplements on this disc). We also learn about a neat connection between this movie and Sam Raimi’s Army Of Darkness. It’s a fun track with a lot of information in it.

    Next, we get a series of lengthy video interviews, all of which were clearly recorded over Skype video chat session by Jay Kay of Horror Happens Radio. They are all presented in a sort of split-screen format, with Kay on the left side of the screen and the interviewees on the right. The first one features cast members Charles Klausmeyer and Mark Kinsey Stephenson and it clocks in at just under eighty-minutes. Through this lengthy piece we learn about how they first got into acting, making their film debut with this feature, thoughts on their characters, their thoughts on the cult following that has developed for the picture over the years, working on the sequel and more. From there, we spend thirty-one-minutes with actor Eben Ham and learn about his background and training, being cast in the picture, his unfamiliarity with the source material, thoughts on the director and more. Actress Laura Albert is up next in a forty-six-minute piece where she talks about how she actually was familiar with Lovecraft before signing on to do the film, how she wound up being cast in the film, her thoughts on some of her co-stars and the picture’s director and more. Actor Mark Parra is up next in a thirty-four-minute featurette that basically follows suit: we learn how he came onboard to work on this project, his training and background, what it was like working long hours on a low budget film and how he got along with everyone else. Lastly, we get video interviews with Biggs and Calvet that run just over an hour. They talk about their background and training, their work on the picture, challenges that were involved in the shoot and more. Calvet also talks about what it was like to be a woman in a very male-dominated part of the business, how the creature effects were done using a series of prosthetics rather than a suit and quite a bit more. There’s a lot of information in these interviews and while they do occasionally cover some of the same ground as the commentary, they’re still very much worth checking out if you want to learn more about the making and history of the picture.

    Bonus trailers for a few other Unearthed Films properties are included (Flowers, Francesca, Mecanix, Night Wish, Song Of Solomon and When Black Birds Fly), as are menus and chapter selection. This release also comes packaged with a slipcover.

    The Unnamable – The Final Word:

    The Unnamable receives a really solid Blu-ray debut from Unearthed Films, the first in their new line of ‘Unearthed Classics’ that will be focusing on older horror pictures rather than the underground films that they’re so often associated with. The presentation is solid despite the 5.1 mix snafu and the disc is stacked with extras. As to the movie itself, it holds up well, an entraining mix of horror and creature feature tropes with a fun cast and some excellent effects work. Recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized The Unnamable Blu-ray screen caps!