Unspeakable (UK DVD)
Starring Roger Cline, Tamera Noll, Leigh Silver, Timothy Muskatell
Directed by Chad Ferrin
Distributed by Cine Du Monde
Originally seeing the light of day back in 2000, Unspeakable is the first feature film to come from the mind of cult genre director Chad Ferrin. Utilizing the $20,000 profits from a house sale, Ferrin seems to have set out to make a filmic representation of utter hatred and insanity. And insane it is indeed. Now, the flick is available for the first time on Special Edition DVD in the UK courtesy of Cine Du Monde.
The plot is relatively simple: Family man Jim Fhelleps (Cline) finds his world torn apart when a car accident leaves his beloved daughter dead and his nagging hag of a wife a scarred invalid requiring round-the-clock care. Struggling to keep afloat, Jim’s mask of sanity finally slips and he sets about carving his way through the human detritus of the streets including prostitutes, pimps and pedophile priests. Hearing the voice of his deceased daughter through his victims, Jim wages a campaign of violence and brutality in a madness-laden quest to re-establish contact.
Visually, Unspeakable looks every bit as rough as one would expect from a micro-budget flick from a first time director at the start of the century. Ferrin’s direction is more than obviously competent, but occasionally usurped by completely out of focus Super-16mm cinematography. When the camera manages to grasp focus on the correct subjects, the world that Ferrin creates for his film is astonishingly sleazy. Thinking along the lines of Buddy Giovinazzo’s depression-bathed Combat Shock should act as suitable preparation for the streets lined with sex workers, red-lit hotel rooms and a general aura that nothing in this world is worth anything more than a razor to the throat.
In the case of Unspeakable, that’s quite literal too. Barely a single character crosses the screen that isn’t reprehensible in some way, and just when Jim begins to settle into his new state of righteous avenger, the revelation of his own intentions towards his daughter throws a nice big curve ball to an audience desperate to cling on to something, anything, amidst the cascade of sliced arteries, battered faces and scatological cunnilingus. Yes, you read that correctly.
Unspeakable’s major problem, ignoring the easier to pick on limitations in visuals and sound inherent to having next to no money to actually make a film, is the terribly meandering nature of the narrative. It feels padded to the extreme, with much too long spent with uninteresting side characters who only appear in order to be killed off in some terrible way (save, perhaps, for the character of a pimp named Hell, looking like Travis Bickle decided to join the sex industry and played by a surprisingly well obscured actor under the pseudonym Wolf Dangler). It lacks a strong underpinning, and offers up very little in the way of an interesting journey for neither its subjects nor the audience in turn. There’s a definite feeling of promise, but the lack of focus leaves the story delivering little more than a disjointed series of thoroughly unpleasant vignettes.
The amateur cast vary wildly in quality – from frown-inducingly awful bit-players to the convincingly unhinged lead, Cline, and the amusingly entertaining Muskatell as Jim’s wife’s sexually abusive carer offering up some of the film’s most truly repugnant scenes. That’s really what Unspeakable boils down to... a series of repugnant scenes that is unapologetically designed to shock, abuse and astound. It’s a rough, mixed bag and most definitely not for everyone – best approached with a level of trepidation by all except the most ardent fans of micro-budget schlock. It’s a commendable first effort though, limitations considered, and most certainly does the job of delivering an angry wallop straight to the gut.
Being a Special Edition, Cine Du Monde’s UK DVD release of Unspeakable sports quite a tidy little package that will likely have existing fans of Ferrin’s work eager to snap it up straight away. First, Ferrin gives us a UK-exclusive “Thank You” introduction to the film, which proves a sincere and realistic foreword. An early short film named “Blood Bath” is offered up in its entirety (also seen in parts on television during the main feature), while a few minutes’ slideshow of storyboards and behind-the-scenes images from both Unspeakable and the aforementioned short follows up on that.
The main reason you’ll want to pick this up, however, is the fantastic feature commentary by Ferrin and actor Timothy Muskatell. Almost as offensive as the film itself, these guys hardly take a breath as anecdote after anecdote comes thick and fast – tales of the stress and pitfalls of trying to make a film with next to no cash, no permits, and questionable content will have your brow raising until your forehead hurts. Dedicated to making sure there’s nary a second of silence, Ferrin actually pops in and out of the audio at a couple of points (from both LA and New York) to fill in dead time where technical issues meant the duo’s recording was rendered unusable. Taking verbal shots at everyone from the police, to the homeless, and dodgy casting couch experiences Ferrin ensures the commentary is as unsafe as his films are yet never comes across in a bad light. That’s not to mention the revelation of just who Wolf Dangler really is. Great stuff indeed.
The trailer for Unspeakable and a selection of other Cine Du Monde releases finishes off the package.
2 1/2 out of 5
3 1/2 out of 5