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The Unnameable II

The full title of the film is "The Unnameable II: The Statement of Randolph Carter". Randolph Carter is a fictional character appearing in a number of stories written by H.P. Lovecraft. Carter is described as an 'antiquarian'; a seeker after ancient mysteries. The Unnameable II takes two of Lovecraft's better stories ("The Statement of Randolph Carter" and "The Unnameable") - both featuring Carter, and tries to merge them. Like most cinematic adaptations of Lovecraft's work the story is changed considerably. Compared against the various films that have tried to bring Lovecraft's stories to life, Unnameable II does fairly well. That's not saying much.

The film starts at the 'old abandoned Winthrop House', where police are carting away bodies that have been horribly mangled by a strange creature. We're in Arkham, Massachussetts - the perennial haunted New England city of most Lovecraftian stories. A single survivor, Howard, is tended to by his friend Randolph Carter. The police take their statements and quickly move to cover-up the massacre, as they know about the creature, but cannot do anything about it. The students were apparently investigating the creature when things went horribly wrong.

Back at the dorm, Carter works tirelessly to decode an ancient inscription, while a ghost visits his hospital-bound friend. It's the ghost of Winthrop, the man who originally summoned the demon more than 300 years ago, the demon that attacked the students. The ghost intones, "It is a demon, and yet it is also my daughter!" It laments a bit more, then begs the injured student to destroy the demon. Carter absorbs this information after ignoring the University Chancellor's request that he let the issue stay dead. But Carter will have none of it, of course -- he's the antiquarian who doesn't play by the rules!

It has to be said that Carter is completely fearless, pushing and prodding his friend (who barely escaped death the last time he encountered the demon) to fight the demon a second time. He comes across as a William F. Buckley-esque occult investigator. Carter ropes a professor of folklore (John Rhys-Davies) into his next attempt at investigating the creature. Carter, the professor and his fearful friend go to Winthrop's grave and discover an underground maze. The friend is left above ground, with a small intercom trailing a wire.

In Lovecraft's tale 'The Statement of Randolph Carter' it is Carter who remains above, and an associate who communicates by a wired radio. In the story, the associate tells Carter about an amazing discovery, and then, moments later begs Carter to seal the crypt and run for his life. Carter desperately tries to re-establish contact by radio in the story, without success, until a third voice speaks through the radio, telling him that his friend is dead.

Of course, nothing that spooky happens in the film.  Carter's friend Howard just mills around in a dank cemetary, muttering to himself. Inside the crypt Carter and the professor find the creature (played by Julie Strain) magically imprisoned by the roots of an ancient tree, unable to move. It screeches like a cat, has bat-wings and cloven hooves, and bad hair, but otherwise it cannot hurt them. They surmise that the creature is a mixture (?) of Winthrop's daughter and the demon, and (in one of the dumbest plot devices ever) figure that if they can weaken the human part of the monster, then the monster will leave! Their weapon of choice - insulin!

They inject the creature with insulin, and the demon flies off as a kind of energy tentacle into a nearby rock wall, leaving behind a very nude  Alyda, Winthrop's daughter (played by the stunning Maria Ford). Fortunately, she has extremely long hair, which covers up her lady-things. It's at this point that the movie actually gets a lot better. And no, I'm not referring to Maria Ford's nudity, although that hardly hurts the film. What makes the movie great at this point is the way Carter reacts to Alyda. She's gorgeous, redheaded, nude, can barely speak, and follows him around like a puppy. This upsets Carter to no end. Also, he has not a single moment to spare for a naked Maria Ford, oh no -- there are dusty books to read, graves to investigate! Though all she ever says is a lispy '... Carter?' he's constantly hushing her. I can handle horror movies with impossibly stupid characters ("Let's go investigate those sounds.") or incompetent police officers ("Aim for the body!"), but it's hard to imagine a normal man not being even remotely distracted by a completely nude Maria Ford. Ok movie, it's your move. 

The professor stupidly remains behind to study the creature's departure, while Alyda and Carter leave the crypt. Naturally, the professor becomes monster chow, warning Carter, Howard and Alyda through the radio to make their escape. They try to escape, the car doesn't start (shocking), then it does start, and they drive away, the harpy-like demon walking after them. A still naked Alyda throws herself against Carter, worried. Carter looks to the front seat of the car and tells his friend to hurry. I couldn't help but imagine Carter saying, "There's a naked woman touching me, yuck! Step on it, man, go, go, go!"

Back at Carter's dorm room, Carter tries to shield her from his prying dorm-mates, one of them (named, 'Barger') asking who the nude woman is. Carter says it's no big deal, and Barger declares, "Are you kidding me, there's a nude woman in Carter's room. This is monumental!"  To add to the comedy, Alyda hates to wear clothing - again, the completely asexual Carter is even more perturbed. After a woman in the dorm manages to get Alyda to wear a flimsy nightgown, the group races to the campus library to get the missing pages of a book that might be able to banish the demon.

An annoying, cowardly, Fabio-esque student remains behind at the dorm, and is murdered by the rampaging demon. At this point, if you know anyone who is into ancient folklore, just stop being friends with them, ok? Everyone Carter comes into contact with gets killed by the demon, while he is able to not only talk to the demon ("You can't have her!") but jog-walk away from it! The demon regularly sneaks up on police officers, putting its claws through their torsos, but Carter can push a cheap card table in front of it and manage to escape.

Towards the end of the film the police get into the act, and the audience is introduced to 'Officer Debbie' the single funniest character in the whole movie. She's incensed at the demon for murdering her fellow police officers and she's out of control! Just saying 'Officer Debbie' makes me laugh. Witness the police chief saying, "Debbie just calm down!" as Officer Debbie cocks her shotgun viciously. For the finale, Carter and Alyda meander through the stacks of the library, dodging the demon, while Officer Debbie and Co. are attacked by the demon. Officer Debbie watches the chief and another officer get killed and freaks out in the movie's best scene. She races after the demon, giving a Howard Dean-like 'yeEEargh!!' that has to be seen to be believed. Officer Debbie faces the demon down on her own, Leroy Jenkins-style.

What becomes of Officer Debbie? Rent 'The Unnameable II' and find out. The demon, however, is banished, and much to Carter's sexual relief Alyda rapidly ages in his arms until she's a bone-dry husk. His virginity safely intact, Carter goes on to fight supernatural evil. Tune in next week when Carter tries to ignore a woman cursed to become a werewolf! Marvel as he bravely ignores her nubile nudeness!

The entire movie feels like a cheap television show, complete with video poker theme music. All in all, this movie has a lot going for it aside from Maria Ford's nudity. It's funny in many ways, but sadly not the least bit frightening. The filmmakers tried to capture the spookiness of Lovecraft's stories, but couldn't pull it off. The hokey music was probably their biggest mistake: it makes the whole movie feel like an academic version of 'Hercules: The Legendary Journeys'. Still, at least they tried.

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