Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Nameless

Oh Jaume Balagueró, why must you torture me so? I've loved your movies for years, even ones that everyone said I shouldn't love (like "Darkness," which I saw twice in theaters). I trusted you, and THIS is how you repay me? Seriously?

In case you can't tell, I wasn't a fan of "The Nameless," and I don't want to hear any shit about it. Yes, everyone told me this movie was less than stellar. So what? They all say the same thing about the director's other early film, "Darkness," and like I said, I loved that one so much I saw it twice in theaters and bought the DVD right after it was released. People told me this movie was going to be a letdown when I finally saw it, but did I listen? No, instead, I looked forward to finally catching this movie for years, almost buying it several times, but something told me to hold off. I now know that it was the voice of God trying to protect me from the torturous experience of watching this movie. I would be so pissed right now if I had paid for it instead of catching it streaming on Netflix.

"The Nameless," based on a story by famed British horror author Ramsey Campbell, is about a woman whose six year old daughter disappears, only to be found by police, dead, mutilated, and tortured beyond recognition. They use a birth defect and an ID bracelet found nearby to identify the body, since the usual means of identification have been destroyed. Five years later, the woman is divorced and trying to move on, but still clearly haunted by her loss. The killer has never been found. One day, the woman receives a phone call with a girl's hushed voice claiming to be her daughter, and her world falls apart. The girl says she didn't die, that she is being held captive, and she begs for her mother's help before the phone connection is cut off. The woman enlists the help of the detective who was assigned to her daughter's case. His life, too, has fallen apart, as his wife recently died and he lost his job in a haze of controversy. A tabloid journalist, too, becomes involved eventually when he receives a mysterious videotape containing images of torture and footage suggested that the woman is being followed and filmed without her knowledge.

Sounds like a scary, compelling movie, right? So what's the problem? Well it certainly isn't the atmosphere. If nothing else, Jaume Balagueró knows how to project a sense of impending doom. The dread permeating the film is palpable, and we sense that everything is not what it seems and things are probably going to end badly for most if not all of our characters. And that's the problem. We SENSE way too much, and we're right, because this movie follows the most cliched plot ever to the foregone conclusion that I literally guessed in the first five minutes of the movie. I kept thinking that there was no way it could be THAT, I must be mistaken, but no matter what manner of convoluted tangles of bullshit Balagueró tries to distract us with (and believe me, the plot gets tangled and muddled beyond belief, with the most elaborate conspiracy theory I have ever seen tying every plot thread together) the plot boils down to the most cliched, ridiculous ending that we all saw coming from a mile away.

I kid you not, all that elaborate mystery and sinister backstory and years of planning and secrecy to unveil the ultimate evil of...THIS? That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard in my life. What kind of dipshit evil villain goes to the trouble of years and years of preparation and convoluted planning to achieve a result that could have happened YEARS ago with far less evil plotting, time, effort, and energy? What was the point of all that bullshit? And furthermore, why do all the characters in this movie do the dumbest things I could ever imagine to uncover the secret, evil, dangerous, deadly plot, and then trace it to a location where they know life-threatening danger awaits, and then run in half-cocked and without bothering to notify anyone of their plan or even attempt to arm themselves? Seriously, only one of them even bothers to take a gun, and they all split up and go in separately, so it's not like he can protect the others, and then he runs around swinging his gun and not bothering to check around corners, so it winds up not doing him any good anyway. I understand that in times of crisis sometimes people can fall apart, but these characters are just plain stupid, and for that, I can't suspend my disbelief enough to excuse the dumbass things that they do.

This movie is two hours of graphic imagery, emotional manipulation trying to make us think something supernatural might be lurking in the shadows, convoluted plot threads tying the most elaborate, ridiculous evil plot imaginable together (I won't spoil it for you, but trust me, you wouldn't believe it even if I did) and then using it to build to the stupidest, most cliched climax imaginable (I came up with 36 better endings on my own while I was watching, back when I still thought this was going to be a GOOD movie) and then the whole thing ends abruptly, leaving us staring at the screen, mouths hanging open, slowly coming to our senses and realizing that this movie is a true case of all style and no substance. Shame on you, Jaume Balagueró, I know you know better than this.

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