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Unspeakable (October 2/04)

It's incredible that Unspeakable features a fairly impressive cast - which includes Dennis Hopper, Dina Meyer, Lance Henriksen, and Jeff Fahey - given how completely and utterly bad it is, irredeemable on virtually every level. The film's been written by newcomer Pavan Grover, who peppers the screenplay with some of the most banal and artificial dialogue to come around in ages. This is not to mention the storyline, which is convoluted beyond belief - eventually wandering into the realm of absolute absurdity.

Meyer stars as a scientist named Diana Purlow, the inventor of a device that allows her to actually see the memories of anyone wearing what looks suspiciously like a headband with wires coming out of it. Despite the protests of a colleague (Henriksen), Diana decides to approach notorious serial killer Jesse Mowatt (Grover) in the hopes that he'll allow her to examine his brain before he's executed. Jesse agrees, and it's not long before some seriously weird stuff starts to go down.

Aside from the obvious - on what planet could such a contraption even exist? - there's a current of incompetence running through Unspeakable, a surprise given the relative skill of some of the folks in front of and behind the camera. Director Thomas J. Wright is a veteran of dozens of television shows - including Millennium, which explains Henriksen's presence - and there's no doubt that the film could've used the sort of restraint required by a series like Millennium, as his overcranked sense of style becomes increasingly frustrating.

But Unspeakable's visuals aren't nearly as problematic as Grover's screenplay, which is rife with clichés and contributes heavily to the incoherent nature of the story. Worse than that, the script is hopelessly derivative - something that's particularly true of a sequence that finds Jesse pressuring Diana into answering questions about her past (Silence of the Lambs, anyone?) Grover even attempts to make a statement about how the media turns murderers into celebrities, but - like everything else in the film - it's done without an ounce of subtlety.

The acting's not much better, with the various actors struggling to breathe life into Grover's inept screenplay. Hopper abandons any pretense of giving an actual performance fairly quickly, and goes so over-the-top that he makes his prior work look subtle (yes, including Speed). Grover tries his darndest to come off as a vicious and evil psychopath, but isn't remotely convincing in that regard. Meyer is the only one to emerge from this mess unscathed, displaying a range that would certainly be more at home in a better movie.

By the time the film's secrets have been revealed, it's impossible not to wonder just what Grover was thinking when he wrote this ludicrous story. But more than that, it's hard to imagine anyone involved with the movie actually being satisfied with the final product. Then again, the sequence featuring Hopper's character ripping off his own face has to be seen to be believed.

out of

About the DVD: MGM Home Entertainment presents Unspeakable with a letterboxed transfer, along with several bonus features (eight deleted scenes, two extended gory sequences - including the aforementioned face ripping scene - and a short blooper reel). The disc also includes a few bonus trailers and a sneak peek at Species 3.
© David Nusair