Sometimes, a movie's title says it all, says Judge David Johnson.
Nothing can silence pure evil. (Except the "eject" button.)
Dennis Hopper (Speed) fronts this exercise in crazy-ass evil, which is set in a prison and deals with a psychopath who may or may not have some supernatural vibe going. Unfortunately, the movie has a "crap" vibe going.
Facts of the Case
At long last the most malicious serial killer in the world has been captured. Jesse Mowatt (Pavan Grover, who also wrote the film) is infamous for murdering at least fifty people. When he is finally hauled into a maximum-security prison, the overpowering warden with a God-complex (Hopper) thinks he has the killer under control.
Hah! Right! Mowatt immediately shows the warden what kind of brilliant lunatic he is. He breaks out of his cell, hijacks the warden's office, and goofs around on the PA system as if he were Zack Morris in Mr. Belding's chair.
In one of what proved to be many, many sequences involving a gaggle of moronic prison guards barely managing to subdue Mowatt, the serial killer is confined again in his cell, brought to court, and sentenced to die in the electric chair.
But on his way to riding the lightning, Mowatt meets Diana Purlow (Dina Meyer, Starship Troopers), a brilliant psychologist doing some advanced work in the field of brain research. She has device that translates a subject's memories into pictures (often in the third person—huh?), which allows her to determine whether or not a criminal is innocent.
As she connects deeper and deeper with Mowatt, she is exposed to terrifying, surreal images, leading her to believe that the murderer is a gold mine of research potential. She pleads with the governor to postpone the sentence, but is denied. Apparently, this particular state puts their death row criminals on the fast track and gets them fried within a few days.
However, as the warden learns the hard way, Mowatt's depravity may be otherworldly.
Unspeakable is rated R for "strong violence and gore and disturbing images." Yep, that stuff's in here. But this movie is so ridiculous, all the "scare" factor is completely erased. A halfway effective opening, when a police officer hitches a ride with a migrant worker with half of her head missing, gives way to a parade of inanity soon after.
Dennis Hopper is the worst offender. His warden is an over-the-top caricature of all grizzled, pissed-at-the-world, exceedingly-cynical authority figures with a God-complex. At one point, he actually says "I am God!"
Aside from being the most clichéd warden ever, he's also one of the most incompetent. He can't seem to restrain his inmate, and manages to have him repeatedly break free and attack his guards. Seriously, this happens all the time in this movie. The warden goes so far as to insert himself into one of the melees, and—surprise—he gets hurt. He does get his comeuppance in an enjoyably gory fashion when he rips off his own face.
Pavan Grover makes his debut as the diabolical killer, though I know he's diabolical only because the film repeatedly tells me he's diabolical. Hannibal Lecter was creepy not just because of the FBI guys lamenting his depravity, but because of Anthony Hopkins's legendary performance. In Unspeakable, exposition lets us know how bad Mowatt is, and that some religious groups have branded him as the Antichrist, and that we should all be afraid. From what I saw, however, it seemed that this guy excelled mainly at starting fights and maintaining his coiffure. Grover didn't move me with his portrayal, and even managed to slip in some shameless self-promotion (he is the screenwriter, too) when a few blondes make googly eyes and tell him how hot he is in the court room.
What might have been an endurable serial killer flick is deep-sixed by superfluous scenes and atrocious writing. The film's first third is consumed with a mostly separate story of a wrongfully accused murderer getting the electric chair while Meyer's character fights for his innocence, then cries when he's cooked, a la Every Death Penalty Movie Ever Made. Oh, and dig the guards laughing it up when there are complications with the execution. Translation: prison guards = evil fiends from Hell that take pleasure in the suffering of others.
The dialogue is so cliché-ridden (the warden refers to the inmates as "pure, unadulterated evil"), and delivered in such hokey fashion, that any shred of seriousness is jettisoned from the viewing experience.
The movie looks slick enough, with a 1.85:1 widescreen transfer. The details are strong, and some of the gore effects really benefit from the treatment. Sound is a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix; and while the surrounds aren't aggressively pushed, the mix works, and is appreciated.
Extras consist of some useless deleted scenes, a handful of fun, extended gory scenes, and outtakes, which were seemingly just more deleted scenes. Weird.
Unspeakable is lame and stupid.
Send this one to the electric chair.
Give us your feedback!
Scales of Justice
Review content copyright © 2004 David Johnson; Site design and review layout copyright © 2016 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.