9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Unspeakable (Thomas J. Wright, 2002)
Wright, a longtime TV director (and one of the men who made the short-lived show Millennium such a pleasure) takes on his first big-screen project since the Hulk Hogan vehicle No Holds Barred in 1989. Given that as his last big-screen credit, I really wasn't expecting much from this flick. It was better than I expected, I'll say, but not much.
Diana Purlow (Dina Meyer, recently of Saw) is a neurobiologist who's developed a revolutionary new method of, to simplify things a bit, lie detection; she hooks someone up to a laptop and some other equipment and can see, to an extent, their memories and their reactions to them. (One thinks, idly, this would've been an amusing twist in Demme's Manchurian Candidate remake.) Despite her protestations of his innocence, a prisoner named Cesar (Marco Rodriguez, last seen in Million Dollar Baby) is electrocuted for murdering a border patrol guard. Meanwhile, the cops have finally managed to capture brutal serial killer Jesse Mowatt (writer/producer Pavan Grover), who seems like a perfect subject for Purlow's study, especially since the one she'd previously been using has just been made somewhat unavailable.
Add to the cast Lance Henriksen as an attorney who's always hanging around with Purlow, Dennis Hopper as the prison's warden, and Jeff Fahey as the governor of Texas (and one of Purlow's old boyfriends), and you've got a cast that's not inconsequential. They do a pretty good job with what they've been given, but the script is leaden at times, silly at others, and eventually spirals down into a mass of confusion from which it never returns. (If you figured out what was going on in the last twenty minutes of the film, by all means, let me know.) Henriksen and Fahey never really get enough screen time to bring their A game, Hopper's acting has seen much better days (though, to be fair, it's seen much worse, too; this movie is nowhere near as bad as Let It Rock, for example), and Meyer may be easy on the eyes, but she's not a lead actress. That leaves Grover, who obviously wrote and produced this as a vehicle (he is, after all, the main character). He's handsome, but not in a typical-Hollywood kind of way, and he's got some chops. Unfortunately, he's as constrained by his own script as is the rest of the cast; it'll probably take a few more films before we really figure out whether Grover's got a film career ahead of him. (Rumor has it he's headed back to his native India, and his next project will be a Bollywood extravaganza where he'll star alongside Amitabh Backchan, but I haven't found confirmation of that anywhere other than an interview with Grover; IMDB lists his next flick as another low-budget horror film called Mr. Hell.)
Confusing, silly at time, but not unwatchable. **
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
It is with a heavy heart that I must issue this scathing report on the atrocity that goes by the name "Unspeakable." I should state that I did not go into this film expecting to dislike it. Far from it, actually. I figured that a horror film with a cast including Dennis Hopper, Dina Meyer, Jeff Fahey, and Lance Henriksen showed some promise. Hopper is a hoot, at least most of the time, so there shouldn't have been any problem there. Dina Meyer is a stunning beauty. Jeff Fahey, a sort of prince of the b-movie realm, is occasionally interesting. And Lance Henriksen needs no elaboration. Anyone remotely interested in movies has seen at least one picture with Henriksen in it, guaranteed. His career spans the cinematic bell curve, from A-list classics like "Aliens" to low budget crud notable only for the fact that he helped them greatly by appearing in them. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the cast roster for "Unspeakable" alone would likely draw in quite a few viewers. What needs to happen now, regrettably, is to replace the word "viewers" in that last sentence with "suckers" because that is exactly what you are if you spend an hour and forty odd minutes watching this sledgehammer to the crotch. "Unspeakable," as noted in the title to this review, is unbearable.
On the surface, the film looks like something for which any respectable horror fan could root. The picture opens somewhere on the Mexican border as a couple of gringo patrol agents spot a guy standing on a river bank puffing away on a cigarette. Suddenly, he disappears in a plume of smoke. Alarmed, the guards rev up the engine and speed away, presumably in pursuit of this enigmatic figure. The movie then shifts focus to an unfortunate wretch named Cesar (Marco Rodriguez) tooling down a back road in his pickup truck. He spots one of the aforementioned border patrol agents stumbling out of the darkness, looking all messed up and asking for help, and gives her a ride. Imagine his surprise when she falls over in the cab and her brain falls out of her head. Not surprisingly, some cops pull him over, witness the horror, and promptly arrest him for murder. In no time at all Cesar ends up on death row facing down a date with the electric chair. Enter Dr. Diana Purlow (Dina Meyer), a neurobiologist whose brain fingerprinting device allows her to capture images from people's heads. Despite essentially proving Cesar's innocence with this contraption, he goes to the chair after the governor of the state (Fahey) refuses to grant a stay of execution because he thinks doing so will endanger his chances for reelection.
The picture kicks into high gear (ha!) with the arrival of Jesse Mowatt (Pavan Grover), a satanic serial killer who looks like the love child of John Stamos and Adrian Zmed. Purlow quickly becomes enamored with the murderous Mowatt and, despite the objections of foul-mouthed prison warden Earl Blakely (Hopper) and sympathetic ACLU type defense attorney Jack Pitchford (Henriksen), soon hooks up her little machine for some cerebral recordings. In between these antics, Mowatt battles lots of sleazy prison guards, puts up with Blakely's profane emanations, and exudes worms from his ears. He also has telepathic powers that allow him to take over people's minds (?), which essentially means he can cause a guard to commit suicide and force Blakely to claw his own face off. Predictably, the capper to this astonishingly jejune slice of horror involves a confrontation between Purlow and Mowatt that is so incredibly idiotic that one must see it to believe it. As the credits mercifully rolled, I asked myself what it was that I had just witnessed. I drew a blank.
"Unspeakable" fails on all cylinders. The acting is banal with the exception of Meyer. My hope that Hopper would rescue this clunker faded after hearing him spew profanity in a faux southern accent that is really beneath his abilities. Fahey barely appears, and Henriksen is on paycheck autopilot as Pitchford, reduced to strolling in the door every ten minutes or so to express his concern for Purlow's activities before disappearing just as quickly. Pavan (who also wrote the film, heaven help us) is boring and unconvincing as the evil Mowatt. Aside from the performances, the storyline makes no sense whatsoever, and the number of inconsistencies and inaccuracies boggles the mind. The execution sequences, for example, consist of one falsehood after another. An electric chair set up in a metal hut? Dozens of prison guards standing around watching the execution? Prisoners strapped in with a full head of hair? Where are the witnesses to the execution? Did anyone spend more than a minute actually researching how a real execution takes place? Apparently not. The only thing that offered a glimmer of salvation was the gore sequences--the shotgun to the head, the face clawing, and a few other nasty surprises--but they are too few in number and come far too late to salvage this car wreck.
The number of supplements offered up on the disc surprised me considering the mediocre quality of the production. We get trailers, deleted scenes, a couple of outtakes, and extended gore sequences. How a movie like this receives this many extras when a film like "Ordinary People" has nothing but a trailer is a question for the ages. Anyway, there's absolutely no way I can recommend "Unspeakable" and continue to sleep at night. It's a muddled, ham-fisted disaster that should spend more time in the trashcan than on a video store shelf. Avoid like the plague.