Saturday, May 4, 2013

Blu-ray Review: THE NAMELESS (1999)

Els sense nom

Label: Echo Bridge Entertainment
Region Code: Region FREE
Rating: R
Duration: 100 Minutes 
Video: 1080p Widescreen (1.78:1)
Audio: (Dubbed) English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 
Cast: Emma Vilarasau, Karra Elejalde, Tristán Ulloa, Pep Tosar, Jordi Dauder, Toni Sevilla, Carlos Lasarte
Director: Jaume Balagueró

Claudia's (Emma Vilarasau) six-year old daughter Angela goes missing and a few weeks later the police discover an acid-burned and mutilated body of a young girl fitting her description submerged in a vat of corrosive liquid, making true identification difficult. The young girl can't be positively identified but a known physical deformity and bracelet indicate that the corpse is Claudia's daughter.

Five years later Claudia is addicted to tranquilizers and trying to cope with her loss until strangely she receives a frantic phone call from a girl claiming to be her daughter. The calls continue and Claudia contacts Bruno (Karra Elejalde) the now retired officer who handles Angela's case. When one of the phone calls leads Claudia to an abandoned hospital she discovers strange pictures of deformed Angels.  She and Bruno take the pics to a theological professor who links the pictures to a cult with Nazi origins known as The Nameless, whom are said to sacrifice children, which adds an uneasy cult/occult element to the film. Throw into the mix a young reporter named Quiroga (Tristán Ulloa, Abre los ojos) who works for a tabloid parapsychology rag who collaborates with the duo and you have the making of what could be a very cool psychological thriller with some gruesome horror elements. 

Many of you will know director Jaume Balagueró as one of the co-director's of the Spanish found footage sensation [REC.] (2007) which was remade into the Americanized but quite good Quarantine (2008), even back in '99 he was showing some real talent behind the camera as the writer/director of this brooding thriller. The film is thick with creepy atmosphere right from the start, punctuated by scenes of graphic violence which are rather disturbing, no punches are pulled. Plus we get a compelling storyline, we're start to wonder if just maybe Claudia's suffering delusions triggered by tranquilizers, but it's pretty quickly realized that something more is truly happening even if at first we aren't sure.

The cult thread is at first quite interesting but I felt that it took the film in a direction that lost its way to some degree, it gets mixed in with this idea about the search for the essence of true evil and while I enjoyed the frenetic finale, it's pretty twisted, it didn't quite live up to the the film's promised potential. That said, still a pretty decent, dark and brooding thriller that's worth a watch. 

Blu-ray: Echo Bridge present The Nameless (1999) on 1080p Blu-ray with an MPEG-4 AVC encode that's apparently sourced from one of the worst print they could find, if these are the elements Miramax offered Echo Bridge they should be ashamed, Jaume Balagueró must be quite annoyed with the treatment the film has received. The print is speckled with dirt, scratches and blemishes of all manner, it was quite distracting. The contrast is muted and colors are really bland, occasionally some red or green lit swath popped off the screen but for the most part this was a pretty flat image marred by imperfection. Likewise, the dubbed English language DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 is quite unpleasant. The English dub is just awful,  it's sounds canned and rarely did the sync match up to any lip movement on screen, combined with the poor PQ this was a rather poor viewing experience. Why at least the original Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 was not included boggles the mind. Carles Casas' very Bernard Herman-esque score and effects sound fine, the dubbed dialogue while unpleasant to hear is never hard understand. There are no subtitle options or special features on the disc. I give very poor marks for A/V presentation for this release, which is unfortunate because this is a pretty decent thriller. 

Verdict: A gripping psychological thriller, a very strong start, some intriguing development but it loses a bit of steam on the final stretch, still a recommend. Unfortunately we get a pretty awful presentation on Blu-ray. Minor qualms about the film aside this is a feature more than deserving of a pristine transfer with a Spanish language track and some decent special features. 3 Outta 5