The Unnamable (1988)

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The Unnamable is the story of a group of college students. When Carter tells two of his friends about an very old town legend of some ‘unnamable’ creature lurking in a nearby home, his friend Joel doesn’t believe him.

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To prove his friends’ superstitious beliefs wrong, Joel decides to spend a night in the old mansion, despite the protests of his friends. When he doesn’t return to school the next day, his friends eventually realize that something has gone wrong and go looking for him. Meanwhile, two jocks have already convinced two female freshmen to ‘explore’ the haunted house with them, a decision they all quickly come to regret in short order.

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Oops.

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Let’s go to the haunted house, they said….It’ll be fun, they said….

The movie is very slow to get started. Most of the first third of the film focuses on the buildup of the plot and introduction to the characters, which wouldn’t be too bad if the characters themselves were all that gripping. Everyone is pretty much just a clichéd caricature that’s been seen before: jock, slut, another jock, good girl, dork and strict science guy. It says a lot about your movie when the most endearing character is the clinically disinterested storyteller who only shows any real interest in what’s going on when history is mentioned. He’s certainly more interesting than the puppy-eyed hero, the thick skulled jocks who’s bright idea it is to break and enter, and the dopey girls who blindly follow them. Couple that with a lot of wooden acting and you’re basically praying for most of the cast to get eaten.

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Our hero, ladies and gents.

What the movie does get right is the effects and the atmosphere. It may be low budget, but the money they saved by hiring actors out of the local Denny’s, was put to good use with the gore and atmosphere. There’s a surprising amount of blood when people die and, for the most part, an obvious effort put into the gore effects. Add that to the combination of deep shadows and saturated browns and blues in a distinct gothic setting and at the very least you have a lot of visually impressive elements for something so low cost.

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The Unnamable also uses the tried and true method of not showing the creature until the end, only giving the audience short glimpses while it stalks the students through darkened corridors. It’s just a giant tease to keep you watching until the creatures’ revelation at the end. Luckily it’s an interesting design. The creators clearly weren’t going to be able to pull off the original story’s extra-dimensional…whatever it was, and instead crafted a pale, hoofed, she-demon who, despite creepily stomping around and scaring everyone, manages to stalk her prey with surprising grace. This is clearly where most of the films money went to, and if they were trying to impress, well then good job fellas, I’m kinda impressed.

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Really, there isn’t anything here in The Unnamable that you haven’t seen before. The characters are stereotypical, the acting is wooden, the story has been done before and the ending is a bit of a leap of faith. Despite that though, the atmosphere, tension and monster design are actually pretty good, making it feel less like a cheap cash in of a Lovecraft based story (though they changed a boatload of things) and more like something they were actually trying to make good in spite of their financial limitations. Regardless of its drawbacks, it still manages to be a fun little haunted house/monster movie. Though you’ll probably spend a lot of time wondering why, in their effort to escape, the characters choose to spend all their time running through narrow hallways when there are a seeming abundance of windows in every room. They clearly need to take a page from that one girl in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and get over their phobia of glass.

The Unnamable is available for streaming on Amazon Prime and Tubi TV.

It is also available on DVD and Bluray.

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Michi

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