Based on H.P. Lovecraft’s short story The Unnamable, Sascha Renninger’s Shadow of the Unnamable manages to capture all of the aspects of Lovecraft’s work that make it memorable in a brilliant mix of mood, visual composition and digital and animated effects.
The short starts off as two friends argue in a cemetery. Randolph Carter (Robert Lyons) is a novelist who is prone to writing about the dark and sinister, though his friend Joel Manton (Jeff Motherhead) derides him for ending his stories with events or imagery that are too horrible to name or describe. By Joel’s estimation, nothing is indescribable or unnamable, as one of Randolph’s stories would suggest, and Randolph goes about filling in some of the back story to help flesh out how he got to such a nondescript ending. As the story nonchalantly unfolds, night falls and the two men find themselves suddenly in the midst of the mysterious legend they’ve been discussing.
First off, the film knocks the mood out of the park. It starts a bit slowly, and for about 5 minutes you’re left wondering, “Really? Am I going to watch an entire short of two guys talking?” The conversation is interesting, but the build is deliberately slow. As Randolph’s story goes along, however, we’re treated to imagery to help us see what it is he’s talking about, through a combination of different animation and digital effects. By the time you’re halfway through the film, you find yourself just as enraptured as the two men and, appropriately, just as creeped out that it’s now night, and they’re sitting in a cemetery talking about indescribable evils.
As soon as I was done watching Shadow of the Unnamable, I wanted to watch it again. The imagery sticks with you, and the effects work is so incredible I wanted to take another look just to see how much was real and how much was fake (much of the work is blended so seamlessly, you don’t know the trapdoor is there until the film pulls the rope). If you’re a fan of H.P. Lovecraft, or just want a quality, spooky short film to enjoy, Shadow of the Unnamable is the right choice for you.
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