Thursday, 24 March 2011

The Unnameable

"The Unnameable", first published in Weird Tales, July 1925.

This is  the  This is the the twelfth entry in my read through of the commemorative edition of Necronomicon: The Best Weird Tales of H P Lovecraft.

In this story, we see the return of Randolph Carter, him that gave the statement, and we find him in a graveyard with his friend again – does the man never learn! It's a new friend this time, though, after Harley Warren didn't return; I wonder if the his new friend knows about Carter's form in this regard? “So, tell me Carter, what did happen to old Warren?”

Also wrote "The Unameable"
The two are having a friendly debate about the immportance of the fantastic in art and literarure, which becomes a debate on the existence of the supernatural, and all this talk gives the first half of the story a bit of a didactic air, as if HPL is using Carter to communicate his own views the necessity of the fantastic in fiction.

In An H P Lovecraft Encyclopedia, Joshi tells us that HPL was reading Arthur Machen's literary theories at the time, and this is the source of Carter's arguments. I'm not familiar with Machen's critical work, but it sounds like the sort of thing that Oscar Wilde used to say. In fact, I think there's a touch of Edwardian decadence about HPL's theories on The Weird, that might have made his stories look cranky and old fashioned in the mid-twenties.

The story develops into a fairly straight-forward spook story and ends in a passage that would surely be an easy score on any HPL bingo board: “It was everywhere – a gelatin – a slime – yet it had shapes, a thousand shapes of horror beyond all memory. There were eyes – and a blemish. It was a pit – the maelstrom – the ultimate abomination. Carter, it was unnameable!”

The general plot of this sounded familiar to me, and I realised that I have seen the film of this one:

Further to the horror movie addiction of my youth, I have John Stanely's Creature Feature Movie Guide Strikes Again (4th ed) which has this to say about it:

UNNAMEABLE (1988). Another adaptation of an H P Lovecraft tale, falsely advertised as being in the league of REANIMATOR. Except for an offbeat female monster named Alyda (well-played by Katrin Alexandra and imaginatively designed by the effects man, R Christopher Biggs) this has nothing to offer but tedious haunted house clichés as four students from Miskatonic University are pursued from floor to floor by the demonic form, which enjoys (a) ripping out your heart (b) bashing your head against the floor until it cracks open like an eggshell and (3)[sic!] slashing your throat so blood gushes out. Another plot has to do with Randolph Carter (named after a Lovecraft character) and his nerdish companion seeking the answer to the mansion's mystery through the old mushy books and incantations which may have something to do with tree monsters – writer/director Jean-Paul Oulette never makes it clear. Unnameable, unless you're looking for a gore flick with a good monster is unnecessary. Charles King, Mark Kinsey Stephenson.

There is also an Unnameable 2 with John Rhys Davies and David Warner! Actually, it looks a little better than part one:

Next up, “In the Vault


  1. I can confirm that "The Unnamable Returns" is in fact significantly better than "The Unnamable".

  2. I suspect I was put off after seeing the first one, which is one of those really bad 80s horror movies that has the same flat palette and affectless acting of a porn movie. Worth looking out, do you think?


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