I am afraid this film continues the tradition of failure that seems to haunt adaptations of the stories of H.P. Lovecraft. I think the original story was a reaction by Lovecraft to criticism of his habit of using adjectives like Unnamable as a substitute for a proper description by creating a story where Joel, a critic of just such a habit by the character Carter is brought by Carter to face a creature that Joel himself calls Unnamable at the end.
The films opens with an old house where a worried old man lives with some screaming monster that he keeps locked in the attic. He says he is trying to civilise the creature which is his daughter but for some reason he seems to have mad turn of believing he can succeed and frees the creature which promptly butchers him. Local people quickly bury the old man and seal the house completely.
This is all just a story being told by Randolph Carter (Mark Kinsey Stephenson) to his friends Joel Manton (Mark Parra) and Howard Damon (Charles Klausmeyer), fellow students at prestigious fictional Miskatonic University in Arkham in Lovecraft country. Joel ridicules Carter’s use of the “unnamable” adjective reasonably arguing that if it can be seen or experienced with the five senses then it can be described. Carter then drops the bombshell that the story is as was reported and happened in old abandoned house by the edge of the cemetery.
Joel dares Carter to spend the night in the house calling him out on his bravery but Carter really does not rise to it and refuses the challenge, pointing out that he’s not the sceptic and he believes it to be a dangerous and foolish stunt but Joel can go ahead on his own if he really believes there is nothing to fear. I’m not sure I have really adequately conveyed how smug and arrogant Carter is in this film.
This arrogance of Carter’s is what prompts Joel to declare he will go and stay at the house in the hoping to wipe that smug grin off Carter’s face. Joel goes the house and looks around and eventually heads up to loft. He hears noises and thinks Carter is trying to scare him. He then gets jumped by some unseen creature which tears him apart.
Up to this point I was fairly happy with the film and it did seem to have some basis in the original story. But a this point the story starts to take another more familiar shape. Two college jocks John and Bruce are chatting to two new girls, Wendy and Tanya. Howard likes Wendy but she doesn’t like him while Tanya like Howard who barely notices Tanya. Bruce and John convince the girls to go to old haunted house with them by claiming it is used for sorority initiations and they can get some advance knowledge. It is a BS excuse and everyone knows what’s really going on and while Wendy is happy enough Tanya isn’t.
Yes, a Lovecraft story been turned into yet another formulaic film about a group of students who go to an abandoned scary house to make out and get killed. Meanwhile Howard is worried that they have not heard from Joel but Carter dismisses his fears at first. It’s only much later after Howard has checked with Joel’s family that Carter agrees to go the old Winthrop house with Howard.
I really was disappointed with this film. The elements from Lovecraft seem to work even if the guy playing Carter is an enormous ham. But the reduction of a Lovecraft horror to a haunted house monster story really just irritates me. It is like there are two films running concurrently and every moment spent with Howard and the shallow screaming girls from the haunted house story is a distraction from the real story. The effects are quite good and the creature looks okay but it really doesn’t look unnamable, in fact she has a name Aliydah or something that we hear her called over and over by her father’s spirit at the end. Oh, yeah, the end. When Carter and Howard get to the house Howard springs into action looking aroung the house for Wendy with Tanya
But Carter finds a room full of old books that turn out to be grimoires and of course includes the Necronomicon and while the monster is chasing and killing students upstairs Carter plonks himself down for some reading. At the end it all pays off when he gets an “of course” look in his face and takes the Necronomicon outside to the graveyard. He opens up one tomb then whilst reading spells from the book he descend to do battle with whatever, tree spirits or something. But we don’t go with him and instead we go back Howard and Tanya battling Aliydah until Carter’s spells work and a tree reaches in and drags away Aliydah. When it’s all over Carter crawls out of grave and with bony hands trying to drag him back. This is a very abrupt ending and it was just groan-inducing for me especially when Carter makes reference to something he saw down in the tomb as being unnamable – argh! stupid cheat ending dumb film