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John’s Horror Corner: The Unnamable (1988), a Lovecraftian version of Night of the Demons (1988).

October 28, 2018

MY CALL: If you enjoy movies like Night of the Demons (1988), then you’d probably enjoy this. It’s equal parts decent (enough) acting and writing, boobs and blood and guts, and a neat monster. Just don’t expect the depth, seriousness or thoughtfulness of Lovecraft as this is as much campy as classic. MORE MOVIES LIKE The UnnamableFor more movie adaptations from Lovecraft’s writings, I’d recommend The Dunwich Horror (1970), The Reanimator (1985), The Resurrected (1991), Lurking Fear (1994) and Dagon (2001). And although not specifically of Lovecraftian origins, his influence is most palpable in In the Mouth of Madness (1994), The Void (2016), The Shrine (2010) and Baskin (2015)—all of which are on the more gruesome side to varying degrees.

Based on H. P. Lovecraft’s short story “The Unnamable,” our story begins in the 1800s when a screaming monstrous woman is locked away in a vault-like attic. We know nothing of what she is, why she is monstrous, or what her relationship is with her keeper—whom she brutally kills when offered a kindness.

Skip to present day (late 1980s) and teenage college students Carter (Mark Kinsey Stephenson; The Unnamable II), Joel (Mark Parra) and Howard (Charles Klausmeyer; The Unnamable II)—one of whom being a descendant of the cursed events past—are telling the folklore as a campfire scary story. Arguing science and logic against the supernatural, Joel challenges that they spend the night in the house. When no one else has the guts, Joel (the scientifically-minded of the three) decides to spend the night alone and some typical haunted house shenanigans ensue after the “house” locks him inside.

From the opening scary story-telling of the nearby haunted house, this movie plays out a lot like Night of the Demons (1988). Jerky fraternity brothers John (Blane Wheatley; Rapture) and Bruce (Eben Ham; The Runestone) invite Tanya (Alexandra Durrell; The Unnamable II) and Wendy (Laura Albert; Dr. Alien) to scout the house for a sorority initiation, a sex scene is amusingly interrupted by the discovery of a mutilated severed head, teenagers are killed one by one when separated from the crowd, the house slams and locks doors to separate its victims, and we eventually uncover more of the house’s history. They even find the Necronomicon—a cursed sort of spell book referenced in so much horror from Evil Dead (1981, 2013) to Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993).

Considering his short resumé, director Jean-Paul Ouellette (The Unnamable II) did rather well with this movie. It was actually decently written, well-enough acted, and the dark history of the house is well-told.

The special effects are good (although less diverse than I’d prefer), featuring a bloody heart ripped from a man’s chest, blood-gushing flesh wounds, chunks of brains falling out of a huge gaping head cavity, and lots of rubber-gloved claws as we delay the reveal of our demon.

Our first sightings of the unnamable monster are very brief or limited to the shadows, but we eventually see its cloven hooves and generally humanoid form. Only in the end do we see its full form (and we see a lot of it), that of a fiendish pale human-gargoyle with small nubby wings, horns and female form (bare breasts and all).

If you enjoy movies like Night of the Demons (1988) and Night of the Demons 2 (1994), then you’d probably enjoy this. Just don’t expect the depth, seriousness or thoughtfulness of Lovecraft as this is as much campy as classic, and it focuses more on the present teen-killing than the historic origins of evil.

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