There aren’t many lost classics left still needing Blu-Ray releases that I can think of, but The Unnamable and its sequel would top my list. Fortunately, Unearthed Films and MVD Visuals are releasing the 1988 HP Lovecraft adaptation in a new 4K scan. Written and directed by Jean-Paul Ouellette, it tells the story of a centuries-old creature bound to a mysterious house near Miskatonic University; yes, the same institution of higher learning that Herbert West once attended.
Ouellette builds out the story significantly, adding more characters and dialogue, as the originally story is fairly thin. At the center of the story is one of Lovecraft’s main reoccurring characters, Randolph Carter, who appears across a number of Lovecraft tales as well as other “in universe” stories from other authors. As in the story, the movie opens with Carter and his friend Joel Manton telling stories in a graveyard. In the film though, they are joined by a Howard Damon. Don’t let the name fool you, Carter is the long time stand in for Lovecraft himself, and actor Mark Stephenson gives Jeffery Combs a run for his money as one of the most memorable of Lovecraft film actors. Howard, played by Charles Klausmeyer, and Carter make a fantastic pairing as a sort of weird fiction Holmes and Watson and one of the biggest failures of the film is that we don’t get more of them and less of the B story, which is four college students exploring the house and getting picked off by the creature.
It’s a minor complaint, despite some wooden acting from the students, because the gore effects more than make up for any moments that may drag. At a mere 76 minutes though, I wish we could have gotten another five to ten minutes with Carter near the end, when he disappears from the narrative (in a pretty cool reference to the characters first written appearance in “The Statement of Randolph Carter,” which also happens to be the subtitle of the film’s sequel), but as in Lovecraft’s own writing, the best bits are often unseen or indescribable, I suppose.
The creature itself, played by Katrin Alexandre, still looks amazing. The way she moves in the pale latex skin, with hoof feet is so good. The make up isn’t so heavy that the actress’s mannerisms don’t come through, and Alexandre shines in the role, even if we don’t get a good look at her until the third act…unless you count the full spoiler reveal on the VHS and Blu-Ray box art.
Considering the number of Randolph Carter stories to pull from and the great performances from Stephenson and Klausmeyer, The Unnamable really deserved to be a long running franchise. Yes, the movie drags a bit here and there, but thirty years later still holds up as overall entertaining horror film that will satisfy a broad range of genre fans.