‘The Unknowable’ Is The Lo-Fi Cosmic Horror Of Your Nightmares
Zachary Donohue is a master of found footage. His 2014 screen-life horror The Den blazed subgenre trails for films like Unfriended and Missing. Almost a decade later, Donohue is returning to found footage, but this time in the form of pseudo-documentary series called The Unknowable. Framed as a true crime series, the ten episodes chronicle the cosmic horrors that lurk in the Mojave Desert.
The Unknowable opens in perfect true crime fashion: by telling us that what follows is one of the most disturbing unsolved mysteries of the 20th century. We’re then quickly introduced to the Wilcox family, Thaddeus (Chris Voss) and Fanny (Ally Voss) along with her sister Mabel (Sarah Eisenberg), who mysteriously moved from their home in San Francisco to a plot of land in the Mojave Desert called Silent Creek. Through ten episodes ranging from two to eight minutes in length, Donohue reveals what horrors the Wilcox family summoned into our world.
You see, Thaddeus has been having strange visions calling him to this plot of land. And once he arrived, he claims he was sent a vision from another dimension by the Erendu, a cosmic race not of our world. They’ve bid him build a gate to let them come to Earth. So, he and Fanny decide to do just that. But not before letting through other cosmic horrors, such as Angus Duquette (Kevin Swanstrom), the Clown With No Paint On His Face. Childhood visions and traumas unite with the present to bring chaos onto Earth and bring the Wilcoxes to an untimely end.
Most of the series is told through archival footage sourced across the internet and supplemented with footage of our main players shot by Donohue. Everything is shot in black and white, adding a vintage, audio-play vibe as the story is dictated by a single narrator (Sean Burgos) over the images on screen. It’s simple in execution, sometimes feeling more like an audio drama than a found footage series. But that doesn’t make the story any less compelling. It’s a testament to Donohue’s writing skills and editing choices between using archival footage versus originally shot footage. It’s indie DIY horror at its finest, a tense and scary experience done by two people who just love making movies.
Even though the story is told through voiceover, it still manages to build tension and create effective scares, especially thanks to performances by Swanstrom and Kimberly Ables Jindra as Agatha Carruthers. Without dialogue, they’re able to create bone-chilling villains that you’re happy haven’t stumbled into our specific timeline. All of these villains and cosmic entities come together in the end to deliver one hell of an effective cosmic horror experience.
Labeled as a horror documentary on YouTube, I’m sure The Unknowable will trick a few folks into thinking the case of the Wilcox family is true. And that’s the beauty of found footage and analog horror in 2023. Donohoe delivers expertly on a simple concept thanks to his strong writing and eye for unsettling imagery. If you love found footage and cosmic horror, I recommend spending the 39 minutes on this series. And beware the Clown With No Paint On His Face.
You can watch all ten episodes on the Jackalope Studios YouTube channel.
With ‘The Unknowable’, Zachary Donohoe delivers expertly on a simple concept thanks to his strong writing and eye for unsettling imagery.