Horror, Thriller

The Nameless (1999)

Comments Off on The Nameless (1999) 14 October 2013

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Distributed By: Miramax Film, Echo Bridge Entertainment

Theatrical Release: November 17, 1999 (Spain)

Blu Ray Release: March 10, 2013

Director: Jaume Balagueró

Rating: R

Reviewed By James M. Dubs

I’ll watch anything so you don’t have to…including The Nameless (Los sin nombre).

The Nameless is not a new film. Originally released in 1999, Miramax Films bought the U.S. distribution rights but shelved the film until its eventual home video release on April 26, 2005. Why the long wait for director Jaume Balagueró’s freshman feature?

To understand this, you have to consider Balagueró’s film timeline. Balagueró would follow up The Nameless with his breakthrough, yet forgettable, 2002 film Darkness starring Anna Paquin. Again, Miramax would purchase the U.S. distribution rights for Darkness and choose to hold the release until December 26, 2004. According to Internet Movie Database, the film would generate a profit globally, but it wouldn’t be until March of 2005 when Darkness would generate over $22 million in domestic revenue against the film’s estimated budget of a little over $10 million. A modest return for Miramax’s investment. From Miramax’s perspective, the time was ripe to use what little name recognition Darkness had garnered and seize the opportunity to milk The Nameless for all it was worth.

Seemingly, The Nameless has been worth very little to Miramax aside from a quick cash grab. It’s now 2013 and Echo Bridge Entertainment has released the film on blu-ray for the first time. The question lingers, should we heed the warning signs or do we throw caution to the wind and give The Nameless a spin? Well, you already know what I’m going to do…

Film Rating: ★★☆☆☆

*Note: For the purposes of the film review, I screened the film via streaming service Netflix. The film was presented in its original Spanish language audio track with English subtitles. The blu-ray review commences after the general film review.

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Detective Massera (Karra Elejalde) is called to a crime scene where police have discovered the remains of a 6-year-old girl. The body has been destroyed beyond recognition but two clues remain – a girl’s bracelet and a medical anomaly. Shortly thereafter, Claudia and Marc (Emma Vilarasau and Brendan Price) are summoned to the police station to identify the bracelet that may have belonged to their missing daughter Angela. When Massera informs the parents that the body also had a leg slightly shorter than the other, the grieving parents are convinced that their daughter is dead.

Flash forward five years. Claudia and Marc have divorced. Claudia, still grieving, has moved forward but not on with her life.  On the anniversary of her daughter’s death, Claudia receives a call from a young woman claiming to be Angela and fearfully pleading with her mother to come find her.  Skeptical at first, Claudia follows the clues to an abandoned asylum where she uncovers something that puts her entire reality in question. Once these chain of events are set in motion, Claudia cannot shake the nagging questions of “What if?” and calls upon Massera to aid her in tracking down the truth.  Is her daughter still alive, and if so, who is behind this conspiracy and why?

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I’m conflicted about how I feel about The Nameless. On one hand it has everything I love about a good murder mystery. There are plenty of red-herrings, LOTS of questions to keep you guessing, conspiracies out the ying-yang, and most importantly, it has an ending that I didn’t guess or foresee a mile away. If there’s one thing that I hate about bad murder mysteries, it is when you guess the “twist” before it happens.

On the other hand, The Nameless suffers from being poorly written. Balagueró has been criticized for being a capable director but horrible writer. I can understand this criticism as The Nameless, based on the 1981 horror novel by Ramsey Campbell, is a little bit of an adapted mess. Character’s are under-developed. Sub-plots and ideas are introduced that lead nowhere (probably as a tool to conceal the ending). One of the “central” characters, Quiroga (Tristan Ulloa), doesn’t apear until 45 minutes into the feature. Some character through-lines are never fully resolved. And perhaps worst of all, I found the ending to be very disappointing, leaving me with a general shrug of the shoulders and “That’s it?” feeling. Without giving anything away, the film ends by answering most of the lingering questions, but the resolution feels so insufficient compared to the build-up.

If it weren’t for the ending, I probably would have rated this film 2.5 – 3 stars. To put it as succinctly as possible: Did I enjoy watching The Nameless? Yes. Would others enjoy it? Probably. Will I ever be watching it again? No.

Ultimately, I understand the decision Miramax made to shelve The Nameless until the appropriate time, but the film is still worthy of an audience. The Nameless is not perfect by any stretch, but there have been much worse films that have received better treatment – Highlander: EndgameThe Crow: City of Angels, or any number of the Hellraiser sequels are a few Miramax films that come to mind. It may sound like a back-handed compliment, but The Nameless is certainly better than these and I found it to be a generally enjoyable mystery.

Video & Audio Rating: ½☆☆☆☆

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I’m not going to mince words. The Echo Bridge blu-ray is an abomination. Where they dug up the source material is anyone’s guess, but it isn’t from the film’s original negative. I thought about writing a lengthy synopsis of the image quality but opted to show you instead.

  1. The above image is an example of dirt that appears with alarming frequency throughout the film. The black spots on Claudia’s forehead are commonplace occurrences during the feature.
  2. In the latter half of the film a visible print scratch appears intermittently throughout on the right side of the screen. Example below.

I could go on, but there’s really no point. My best guess is they gave a used release print a once over scan without worrying about color or depth. Frankly, I just don’t see the point in buying a blu-ray if the film is going to look this bad. Comparatively, the Netflix image had some of the same problems but were less pronounced due to the lower resolution of streaming vs. blu-ray.

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As for the audio, the only reason I would ever give a blu-ray/DVD a zero rating would be if the audio were completely absent. However, this is the next worst thing to that. Missing completely is the original Spanish language track that was available via Netflix. The only option is an appalling English 2.0 stereo dubbed mix where the recording is so careless that the lip movements never sync with the words. The video presentation may be annoying, but the audio makes the blu-ray completely unwatchable. This is simply an atrocity considering the original Spanish track was available in 5.1 surround on the 2005 DVD (not to be confused with the 2011 Echo Bridge re-release).

Extras Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

There are none.

Overall Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

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This is one of those blu-rays that you try to give away because an open slot on your shelf is worth more than the disc. It’s too bad because The Nameless is a decent little movie worth your time and not deserving of such abhorrent treatment. Start by checking The Nameless out on Netflix. If you like it enough for purchase, track down the original 2005 DVD, or buy a streaming version, but don’t bother with the Echo Bridge blu-ray.

About the author: James Dubs is a father and husband who loves his family first and movies a close second. He believes every movie is worth watching once and, as a film fan and critic, believes that even the worst movies offer something in return. His mission is to watch anything and report without pretension. Follow James Dubs on Twitter and send him suggestions on movies you would like reviewed – popular, obscure, independent, etc. He’ll watch anything for you.

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- who has written 67 posts on UnRated Film Review Magazine | Movie Reviews, Interviews.

James Dubs is a father and husband who loves his family first and movies a close second. He believes every movie is worth watching once and, as a film fan and critic, believes that even the worst movies offer something in return. His mission is to watch anything and report without pretension. Follow James Dubs on Twitter and send him suggestions on movies you would like reviewed - popular, obscure, independent, etc. He'll watch anything for you.

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