The written description for urban horror Night of the Unspeakable sounds like Night of the Demons/Demons in a hip hop recording studio, even though the trailer is demon free and just shows people having sex, so I gave it a chance. Someone should seriously cut another trailer that looks less like a softcore porn than a horror film, because I don’t think the trailer does the movie justice.
I assume this is the directorial debut of Jamie Rhodes. There is a photo of the movie art on his imdb bio page, but there’s no listing for the movie itself as of this writing. It is most definitely a well-conceived, cohesive little indie film, but like many low budget indie horror films, it also shows why many enthusiastic directors end up with horror lite. Making horror that is genuinely effective is a lot fucking harder than even those who’ve been living and breathing horror their whole lives think. Plot. Special effects. Pacing. Camera work. Perspective. Music cues. Timing. Lighting. Sound effects. Setting. Atmosphere. Editing. Sets. Performances. And shit loads of other stuff I forgot to mention or don’t even know about.
I was worried when, within the first fifteen minutes of this 76-minute film, I had to sit through an entire performance by an R&B girl group and then an entire performance by an R&B male group as they “recorded” in the studio. On the bright side, the songs were actually good. In between, we meet a variety of characters, from the studio staff to the various musicians, and get some relationship drama. We also learn that one female character is into voodoo, which is all that really matters.
The script smartly sticks close to demon movie tradition—simple setup before getting right to the point. Point being, another chick messes with her voodoo stuff when she’s not around and unleashes a demon. And he’s sizzling hot.
Slowly but surely, he begins spreading his demon seed (can I get a super size order of that?). Similar to Night of the Demons, sexual situations and demon occurrences often collide, and the demons also have the ability to appear as normal humans again when necessary. There’s even a hint of creepy floating demon action and a girl-on-girl kiss. But Demons also seems to get a nod, for a chick with dreadlocks steals some scenes later on in what appears to be a nod to Geretta Geretta, although minus her level of gnarly, drooling, dripping demon brilliance.
I definitely appreciate what Night of the Unspeakable was going for here, but it’s not as frightening or suspenseful as I’d hoped. Of course, budget constraints play a part. Makeup is pretty much just face paint, color contacts, some cool fangs, and sharp fingernails, and gore during a few flesh-eating moments consists mostly of the red stuff.
There’s no attempt to mask any limitations in effects, because most of the film is shot in full light: no shadowy halls, no dark rooms, no studios lit by nothing but red EXIT signs. As a result, the film visually lacks horror atmosphere and tension – we don’t get that sense of fear that a demon could be lurking around any corner as in the films that seem to have inspired this one, although there are a few perfectly eerie moments, such as this scene…
Come to da-…I mean…EEK!
There just aren’t enough of them for my horror appetite. Having a small group of people trapped in such tight quarters practically guarantees continuous claustrophobic terror that doesn’t come through. The curious thing is, there are plenty of jump scares early on, but because they come before the demon is released, they are all the bogus variety reliant on musical stings—it’s always someone catching another person off guard, never an actual demon surprise!
Unfortunately, demon confrontations are most often accompanied by…rock music! WHY??? I can’t get away from the worst of all horror scene music genre choices even in a fricking hip hop horror movie! And speaking of music, the film once again brings in an entire performance – by a band this time – at the 38-minute mark of the film (another good song), after the demons are already on the prowl. Unless something is going to happen to or involving the band to propel the action forward, you might as well just put a title card that reads “4-minute intermission” in the middle of your horror movie at this point.
As the film progresses, the survivors begin to battle the demons…in silence. There are absolutely no sound effects as body parts make contact, which paradoxically amplifies that the fight scenes are low budget – right at the film’s high point. I’m hoping director Jamie Rhodes can rake in a little more funding and also revisits other demon flicks to note the nuances that made them such classics so the Night of the Unspeakable 2 will be an epic urban demon movie. Oh, there’s definitely going to be a sequel, considering this one concludes with “To be continued…”
However, I do wonder if perhaps the demon hunter/fantasy direction the film takes in the second half is where the story is headed and is indicative of why it doesn’t amp up the horror the director demonstrates he’s quite capable of delivering in probably more scenes than I actually realized. After all, I’m the type of guy who watched a scene of my hunky dreamboat demon devouring someone’s flesh, and my takeaway was this…