BERSERKER - 1 sheet
(1988, US)
3 and a half stars 
directed by: Jean-Paul Ouellette
starring: Charles Klausmeyer, Mark Kinsey Stephenson, Alexandra Durrell, Laura Albert

choice dialogue:

“A-ha! The plot does get thinner!"

- Randolph Carter figures it out

slash with panache?
[review by Amanda Reyes]

Although some may disagree, the horror films of the late eighties and early nineties were a charming hodgepodge of end-of-the-line slashers and direct-to-video mayhem. With a few exceptions, the majority of offerings looked like their price tag, but made up for that missing budget with spirited casts, and charisma to spare. Half of the fun of a video store visit was uncovering a movie you’d probably never heard of. The box art for THE UNNAMABLE was indeed enticing, beckoning eager horror seekers who love gothic tales and incredible looking beasts. Luckily, although THE UNNAMABLE has a few faults, this surprisingly brutal late entry supernatural slasher is mostly enchanting, thanks to its sense of fun and a game cast.

  H.P. Lovecraft gets the 80s' slasher movie treatment in THE UNNAMABLE

Loosely based on the H.P. Lovecraft short story of the same name, the film adaptation of THE UNNAMABLE is mostly set in the present, and in or around a college campus (the name of the school is, of course, Miskatonic University). The film begins in the late 1800s, where a man is keeping a beast in a locked room. Although he lets the creature out from time to time to… I dunno, stretch its leg... it finally rebels and kills the man, only to be really locked away for the next century.

Flash forward to the 1980s, where Randolph Carter (Mark Kinsey Stephenson putting a wonderfully humorous spin on Lovecraft’s oft-referenced fictional doppelganger) is enjoying a graveyard picnic with his friends Joel (Mark Parra), who, along with Carter, is featured in the original short story, and Howard (Charles Klausmeyer looking just enough like Andrew McCarthy to make me giggle). Randolph is spinning a folk tale turned urban legend about a nearby haunted house, where horrific images of an unnamable creature have been trapped in the windows. The obnoxious Joel wants to call Randolph’s bluff and offers to spend a night in said ghostly domicile.

  Gooey gore is present and correct in THE UNNAMABLE

Up until this point (which is arguably rather early in the film), THE UNNAMABLE follows Lovecraft’s story fairly faithfully. But this is a late 80s supernatural slasher, so of course we need a few familiar stereotypes! So, back to the library of Miskatonic U, where a lovelorn Howard can be spotted roaming the library, drooling over the lovely Wendy (Laura Albert), who only has eyes for older, better placed, frat guys. But her study partner Tanya (Alexandra Durrell looking just a touch like Gillian Anderson) is in love with Howard, and he doesn’t even know her name, presenting a somewhat humorous love triangle of misplaced affection. Two big time frat guys invite Wendy and Tanya to the earlier seen House of Death in the hopes of a night of romance. But when Joel turns up missing, Howard and Randolph also assemble at the same location. All are unaware that something sinister is waiting just beyond the darkened windows.

Shot in approximately three weeks, THE UNNAMABLE might not change lives, but it remains inspired popcorn fare. The cinematography also has some high points, with moody lighting emitting from the blackened windows.

  THE UNNAMABLE finally puts in an appearance

Of course, the money shot comes when the audience gets its first full look at the cloven hoofed monster in all of its ragged, toothy glory. The costume, which is designed by Debra Swihart morphs the elegantly eerie Katrin Alexandre, who moves with a meticulous, dancer-like grace, into a beautiful ogre. Her cries are half horse/half woman, and echo through the house in waves of spine-chilling terror.

THE UNNAMABLE does not shy away from the gooey gore either. The victims do not go gently into that good night, and despite its budget, writer/director Jean-Paul Ouellette manages to flaunt the brutality of THE UNNAMABLE’s violent wrath.

The minimal cast is wonderful too. Kinsey Stephenson, in particular, is a hoot, and his humorous reactions to the horror before him never breaks the tension. He just makes it more fun. And, to this day, I still crush on Klausmeyer, who embodies that clean cut preppie guy that I use to love from afar (don’t judge). Both actors returned for THE UNNAMABLE II, which is also low-budget fun that does the best with what it’s got.

The weakest aspect of THE UNNAMBLE is the score, which was composed by David Bergeaud, who would go on to compose music for several video games. However, the end song is snyth-y goodness, so all is forgiven.

Early on in Lovecraft’s eerie and effective short story, the author writes, “…I well realized the futility of imaginative and metaphysical arguments against the complacency of an orthodox sun-dweller.” It would seem he was speaking directly to not just his own audience, but that of the movie as well. Sure, it’s a crazy little flick, but if you can check your disbelief at the door, there’s a lot of fun to be had in that creepy old house. 


BODYCOUNT 5  bodycount!   female:1 / male:4

       1) Male with heart ripped out
       2) Male with head torn off
       3) Man with clawed out throat
       4) Male with head beaten to a pulp

       5) Female with broken neck