Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Unnamable II: The Statement of Randolph Carter (1993)

Despite having been made five years later, The Unnamable II begins right where The Unnamable ended. The bodies of the Unnamable's victims are recovered by the police, and the female lead and Howard (Charles Klausmeyer) are hospitalized, the former never to be seen again (I blame non-Euclidean geometry). However, as the expository ghost of Winthrop - aka the guy responsible for the monster whom you might remember possessing a tree in part one - helpfully explains to Howard, the monster problem is not solved, for his roots might be able to hold the-monster-who-is-also-his-daughter, but they can't and won't kill her/it even though the Fate of the World™ is at stake.

Fortunately, Randolph Carter (Mark Kinsey Stephenson) still has the Necronomicon and is not afraid to use it. Together with Professor of Folklore (I think) Warren (John Rhys-Davies), Randolph mounts an expedition into the tunnels below the Winthrop house. There they do find a pretty sprightly yet still rooted monster. Because of some hand-waving QUANTUM SCIENCE(!), our heroes realize that the monster does actually consist of two separate halves existing in the same place in space and time. Or something. One of the halves is Winthrop's daughter Alyda, and the other a demon (shouldn't that be a creature from the Outer Dark?).

Clearly, the best thing to do with the couple is to inject Alyda with insulin so that the demon thinks she's dying, wait until the demon leaves, and then save Alyda's life with the magic of sugar cubes! Would you believe that Alyda turns out to be a very naked young woman (Maria Ford) of understandably dubious mental faculties who falls for Carter head over heels, and that the demon (a rubber-suited Julie Strain) does not return where it came for but kills a bunch of people to get her host back?

Only some random pages of the Necronomicon (that will turn out to be utterly useless) and a trusty chair can save our heroes.

I did not get along too well with Jean-Paul Ouellette's first Unnamable movie, which I thought was a rather boring, but at least not hopeless, example of the late 80s Young People Running Through A Dark House movie. I wouldn't exactly call its sequel a good movie, yet Unnamable II is at least a major improvement on the first film on all fronts in so far as it is still a silly monster movie with a lot of running around in dark buildings, but it's now a silly monster movie with a lot of running around in dark buildings that actually manages to be somewhat fun. Plus, the running takes place in more than one building - there's even running in a library! (Don't do that in real life, kids!)

Unnamable II does even work a bit better as a Lovecraft adaptation. It's not that it's actually Lovecraftian, yet it does at least feature the right jargon for some of the time, drops the proper names and might even be onto something fitting into Lovecraft's cosmology with its quantum physics angle (if the script only knew what "quantum physics" actually are); that's surely not enough to make the old gent's more easily annoyed fans happy, but I'm quite pleased with Ouellette's efforts.

As you might imagine after reading the plot, the film's script is no great shakes. It suffers from a meandering structure and an unfortunate tendency to include quite a few scenes of particularly awkward humour, some of which is based on Alyda being played by softcore actress (whose bodily assets are - in a very puritanical and not very exploitation movie appropriate manner - hidden by a judiciously applied wig) Maria Ford but having the mental development of a child. It's the sort of thing that could make the more morally upright viewer a bit uncomfortable in her skin. As someone not quite as upright, I'm fortunately not able to take the film seriously enough to be scandalized by little things like that. This is, after all, a movie where the unnamable, bullet-resistant evil is conquered by the power of a very normal chair.

On the more positive side, I probably should mention a small cameo by David Warner and the somewhat longer appearance of John Rhys-Davies doing a pretty funny example of his special brand of avuncular scenery-chewing. Stephenson has improved quite a bit since the first movie, losing some of the stiffness of his performance and gaining not exactly believability, but the sort of artificiality that works well in this sort of thing.

It's easy to criticize The Unnamable II for its manifold flaws, but I found it just as easy to be rather charmed and entertained by them and it, as well as by the good-natured way it goes about being a monster movie about a girl in a monster suit doing what people in monster suits have done since time immemorial.


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