Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Review: The Unnamable Returns (1993)

Welcome back, bleeders. I'm happy to see that my attempt to blackmail you into you reading this are working. Now, where were we? Ah, yes, Howard finally got a girl to kiss him, right? Too bad that somewhere between that kiss and the opening here she seems to have had a bit of mental breakdown. Sorry, Howard, looks like your date might need some time to recover. We now find the survivors from the previous film outside the house dealing with the police in the aftermath. It's good to see the cops actually showing up this time as they were quite absent while teenagers were dying like flies last time. Carter stashes the Necronomicon with Howard as he's loaded into an ambulance, which makes sense being that they might need the book.

Although, one should remember to handle it with care. It can get a bit bitey.

Now, you might find the opening a little weird, but one should really bear in mind that this sequel may not have been planned initially, thus the former film was likely designed to end in a way that felt like a proper closing. The problem with that theory though is that the first didn't feel whole, it honestly felt more like the first half. So, I have always looked at these films like a low-budget pre-cursor to the Tolkien live-action films, where our story is broken into multiple films so it gets the proper fleshing out it deserves. Regardless, it is weird to see Tanya go from kissing Howard to her suddenly being loaded into a cop car looking rather traumatized. I can only assume that they decided to be a little more honest about what the characters' states were in this film. Moving on, the cops are trying to avoid thinking about the fact that a demon may be loose killing horny teens but at least the sheriff leaves an officer to guard the highway.

I'm going to be brutally murdered, aren't I? Shit.

Carter visits Howard after being questioned at the police station and asks his friend about seeing the creature. He tells him about the tunnels he saw that he believes the creature dug out, believing that going back down there may shed some light on things. Howard, meanwhile, has been having nightmares about his experience and expresses his concerns about Carter not telling the police about the book or the tunnels. Later on Carter gets visited by some other friends, Barger and Jack, who find him investigating the book by himself. Barger finds the symbols he's drawn fascinating as they match up with a quantum mechanics formula. But, as Jack has long hair, he's clearly the partyboy and quickly gets bored out of his mind, deciding to duck out to go spend time with his girlfriend, Mary.

There's just something about Mary. Incoming Farrelly brothers lawsuit!

We return to Howard as he wakes from yet another nightmare, only this time he is greeted by the ghost of Joshua Winthrop, the father of the creature. He tells Howard that his daughter still lives and that his power is barely holding her back, as he is much weaker as a spirit than he was in life. The only solution is for her to be killed before she gets loose again to run amok. He calls Carter to tell him about it and this prompts Carter to visit the Chancellor, played by film veteran David Warner, to talk about what actually happened. He immediately tells the Chancellor straight out about the creature, to which he reacts with a very laid back attitude towards it all. He tells him that Arkham is no stranger to this sort of thing and that Carter should leave it all alone. Our hero, of course, finds this option to be bullshit and instead teams up with Professor Warren, played by John Rhys-Davies. Oh man, I went and made a Tolkien reference only for one of the cast of Lord of the Rings to show up. He talks the professor into joining him in exploring the tunnels for the creature and they go drag poor weary Howard along with them.

You just had to invite me to come hang out with Gimli next to the demon hole.

They go into the tunnels and use some insulin to scare the demon out of the girl's body, then save her from being sealed down there because Carter knows she's innocent in all of this. The professor lingers down there and finds the demon is still about and still has a thing for ripping bits of people out. I'm having flashbacks of how sad I was when he died in Sliders now. Howard, Carter, and Alyda (the daughter) all head back to town and the poor cop at the house gets killed too. Arkham's property values have to be pretty low with all this death going on. At the school Carter and Barger go after a professor to help prove how old Alyda is and Howard goes for the cops because there is a demon on the loose who has a fetish for looking at the insides of people the hard way. Jack's girlfriend gets Alyda dressed just in time for her and Jack to die when they decide not to join the group on their adventure.

Demon possessed girls don't tend to clothes shop.

It becomes very clear that Alyda really quite likes Carter, so much so that she actually says she loves him. That was a quick courtship. The newly introduced professor also gets the rip-and-tear treatment and Carter takes off with Alyda into the library. The cops show up to fight the creature, but they get summarily picked off rather easily, and Carter faces the creature down in the library after getting the missing pages of the Necronomicon. The creature tries to save itself by rebonding with Alyda but Carter stops it by throwing a chair in the way. No, really, he tosses a chair into the way and the creatures fuses with it, becoming a very ugly chair. Alyda, meanwhile, dies in his arms as her life was linked with the demon and we close on Carter sitting alone with Howard after giving his statement to the police. He throws pieces of the now broken demon chair into the fire and the credits roll. Thus ends the Unnamable duology.

The dreaminess of Mark Kinsey Stephenson will never end though. *sighs wistfully*

Now, getting to the meat of this, let's talk about things. These were both clearly B-movies, a fact that is rather obvious with many of the campier performances from the characters in both films who existed solely so they could be killed off. But the films are still very strong and entertaining watches. Do you know why? Our heroes, that;s why. Seriously, Carter and Howard are very interesting and compelling characters who you want to watch. This is likely less to do with the writing and more to do with the performances of Mark Kinsey Stephenson and Charles Klausmeyer, who are very charming as the two scholarly protagonists. In the first film we get more of Howard being the hero, but when you watch these films as one whole film, it's fairly clear that Carter is the star. He's the one who wants to know more, wants to do what is right, and isn't afraid to face down demons if it means saving people he cares about. Stephenson does a very good job bringing to life a character I always loved from Lovecraft's works, even if it is a more modern version of the character. It's also worth noting that Stephenson has a look to him that honestly reminds me of Lovecraft himself, which I feel just makes it fit even more.

I don't think Lovecraft was quite the ladies' man that Carter is in here, though.

The directing by Jean-Paul Ouellette isn't bad either, as he seems to keep a very gothic feel to everything even in the more modern setting. Overall, I would say these two films are vastly under-appreciated classics that really deserves some love. I rarely hear anyone talk about them and they've been long out of print on DVD, which leaves me to plea and beg that Shout Factory get the rights to these films and release them under their Scream Factory label, as they are more than deserving on the Scream Factory treatment. I am challenging you people over there at Scream Factory to not only gives these movies a Blu-Ray release but to get us some interviews and extras too. Give us a new cover to enjoy and make people remember this forgotten bit of Lovercraftian horror that found life in film. Don't let these movies slip through the cracks, please. In closing, if you can find these movies and enjoy a good creature feature, please, by all means watch them. They're very enjoyable and have a rather creepy aura to them that emanates beyond the B-movie exterior. So, until Julie Strain revelas to the world that she actually wore not make-up for this movie and is actually a very sexy demon lady, I'll be here remembering movies that others too often forget. Later days, bleeders.

GO TO SLEEP!

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