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The Nameless (1999)

Echo Bridge Entertainment/Miramax
Blu-ray Disc Released: 5/7/2013

All Ratings out of
Audio: 1/2
Extras: No Extras

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 4/20/2013

Even if you are a casual reader, after watching a string of lousy movies, you've no doubt thought, "I've read books which would made good movies. Why does Hollywood keep recycling the same bad scripts?" And you've asked a question which has plagued film-goers for years. Sure, novels are being adapted into movies all the time, but the ones which make it to the screen are dwarfed by the numbers of those which don't. In the 1980s, it seemed that anything which Stephen King wrote made it to the big screen. But, there were many other popular and competent horror writers from that era who didn't get the same attention. (It's odd to think that Dean Koontz was almost as popular as King, but no one has come close to making a good movie from his material.) Thus, it seemed very peculiar that in 1999 a film was released based on a 1981 horror novel from a British author. And that's not the only mystery one gets with The Nameless.

As The Nameless opens, Claudia (Emma Vilarasau) learns that police have found a body which matches the description of her missing daughter. Although the girl has been mutilated, the authorities decide that there are enough similarities to Angela to declare the case closed. The story then jumps ahead five years. Claudia, now single, works at a magazine and tries to stay busy in an attempt to put the past behind her. This all changes one night when she gets a call from a girl who claims to be Angela. She assumes that this is a prank at first, but the caller gave enough clues for her to take it seriously. Claudia tracks down Massera (Karra Elejalde), the detective who investigated the case originally and asks him for help. Although he's just retired from the force, he agrees to help. They find that the clues lead to a cult called The Nameless and a terrible man named Santini (Carlos Lasarte). Quiroga (Tristan Ulloa), who writes for a magazine which investigates the occult, receives a videotape embossed with Claudia's phone number and he becomes involved with the case as well. As Claudia gets closer to the truth, the situation becomes darker and more dangerous.

Although British writer Ramsey Campbell never became a household name in the U.S., his books were quite popular, and The Nameless was one of his early successes. Campbell was heavily influenced by H.P. Lovecraft, and while reading his books, one vacillated between thinking that he was a genius and that he was a bad writer, as he would introduce very imaginative ideas and then, in true Lovecraft fashion, keep many details vague so that the reader wasn't 100% sure what was happening. Suffice it to say that his movies didn't jump out at the reader as something which could easily be translated to the screen.

So, it was truly a surprise when a then unknown Spanish director named Jaume Balaguero decided to adapt Campbell's novel nearly 20 years after it was originally published. (In 2002, Balaguero's eventual filmmaking partner, Paco Plaza, would also turn a Campbell book into a movie.) And being a Ramsey Campbell novel, Balaguero faced the daunting task of turning the story into something which could be cinematic. He did a pretty good job of this, as he's streamlined the plot and turned it into a police procedural. With this, Claudia and Massera follow the clues given in hopes of learning the truth behind Angela's disappearance.

The problem is that Balaguero fails to bring any energy to The Nameless. We simply sit and watch Claudia and Massera go to different places looking at things and interviewing people. It's not until the last few minutes of the movie that there is any suspense or feel of dread. Balaguero has decided to retain some of Campbell's love of the unknown, and thus, the audience is as clueless as the characters in the film. Thus, when things happen, they should be shocking or surprising, but they aren't. Also, the lack of details hurts the film in the long run. (Who are The Nameless? Where do they come from? How are they recruited?) Balaguero introduces some interesting visuals in flashback scenes, but for the most part, the movie is flat.

The Nameless represents an ambitious experiment which unfortunately did not work. However, it was great of Balaguero to try and adapt someone like Campbell. I would love to see filmmakers take a stab at the works of other horror writers like Robert McCammon or Dan Simmons. Instead of yet another Texas Chainsaw Massacre rip-off (we seem to get at least one a week), let's see someone bring something original to the screen.

The Nameless gets too graphic too early on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Echo Bridge Entertainment/Miramax. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 28 Mbps. This looks as if it was taken from a theatrical print, as the image is grainy and littered with black dots and lines. The colors are washed out and some scenes are too dark. The image is flat and notably soft at times. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.0 Mbps. From some reason, Echo Bridge has decided to only offer the English dubbed track here and it's awful. This is the kind of dubbing which people love to ridicule, as the dialogue rarely comes close to match the movements of the actor's mouths. The dialogue sounds very canned and separate from the sound effects and music. With those sound effects, the stereo effects are OK, but not overly noticeable.

The Nameless Blu-ray Disc offers no extra features.

Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.