review for The Nameless on AllMovie

The Nameless (1999)
by Jason Buchanan review

Imbued with a convincing sense of impending dread essential to any effective horror-thriller, Jaume Balagueró's adaptation of British horror author Ramsey Campbell's The Nameless only falters while wallowing in a cliché revelatory climax that's as predictable as it is unconvincing. Drawing inevitable comparisons to director David Fincher's similarly grim Seven (1995), The Nameless shares a similar tone and look with its American counterpart, with its murky cinematography and menacing aura. Both films feel as if they're careening toward some hollow, black abyss, though the characters in Balagueró's film seem arguably more personally driven and human, demanding the viewer's emotional commitment and playing off that investment with sadistic abandon. Balagueró has a keen eye for detail and the ability to let subtle terror seep like molasses from the celluloid instead of opting for the typical "shock" scares, though intermittent experimental-style static and video distortion keep the audience on their toes until becoming slightly laboring as the film moves on. Thinking their missing daughter dead after police discover an unrecognizable body with similar features, Claudia and Quiroga (Emma Vilarasau and Tristán Ulloa) suffer a shattering blow to their marriage that leaves Claudia a cold and distant shell of the loving wife and mother she used to be. When Claudia receives a disturbing telephone call years later from a girl who claims to be her daughter, the viewer senses the raw, crushing pain of past tragedy hitting her like the wave of repressed emotion that it is, making her desperate search for the only person that could truly make her feel love, or any emotion for that matter, all the more urgent and sympathetic. As Massera, the ex-detective who assists Claudia in her search, Karra Elejalde is also convincing as he too faces past demons, seeking redemption through saving a life now where he failed in the past.