Monday, September 24, 2007

reVIEW (24)
(THE NAMELESS) [1 of 3]

In light of the upcoming [Rec], co-directed by Jaume Balaguero (with Paco Plaza), I thought to take a look back at Balaguero’s past films. We begin with Los Sin Nombre.

The year is 1999, and even as the seeds for a paradigm shift in cinematic horror are beginning to flower in audience reactions to Hideo Nakata’s Ringu, another horror revolution, this one less overt though just as important, is taking place in Spain, one of its leading proponents: Jaume Balaguero.

Based on Ramsey Campbell’s novel, The Nameless, Los Sin Nombre opens with Bruno Massera (Karra Elejalde), a policeman whose Missing Persons case leads him to the uncovering of a young girl’s mutilated corpse. Apparently, it’s the six year old girl he’s been looking for, Angela Gifford, and it’s his unwanted duty to inform the girl’s parents, Marc (Brendan Price) and Claudia (Emma Vilarasau, who won two Best Actress awards for the role) that their daughter is now gone.
Though all identifiable marks on the body (fingerprints, teeth, and the like) have been destroyed, Angela’s bracelet is found at the scene, and the case is closed.
Flash forward five years later, and Claudia, now separated from Marc, gets a call, allegedly from Angela, pleading for help. Claudia then enlists the aid of Bruno—who’s just quit the force due to some personal matters—to help her get to the bottom of the mystery.

Los Sin Nombre is an impressive feature film debut by Jaume Balaguero. Surrounding himself with a crack team which includes Carles Cases (original score) and the killer cinematographer/editor tag team of Xavi Gimenez and Luis De La Madrid (who would go on to win awards for their work on Los Sin Nombre*, and, along with Cases, work with the director once more on his second feature Darkness), Balaguero brings this disturbing portrait of the perversion of the innocent and the insidious nature of evil—a theme revisited in Darkness—to the screen with a sure and steady hand.
From the cleverly edited title sequence to its far-from-happy ending, Los Sin Nombre casts a riveting spell on the viewer, as we are plunged, along with Claudia and Bruno, into this dark world of cults and missing children.

As noteworthy a debut as it is, Los Sin Nombre is not without its flaws though, particularly in the character of Quiroga (Tristan Ulloa; Abre Los Ojos), a reporter for a parapsychology magazine who becomes embroiled in the mystery surrounding Claudia and her daughter. Introduced about a third of the way into the film’s running time, the character isn’t given enough screen time to convince the audience of his motivation for risking his job and health in his decision to pursue the sinister matter. Ostensibly, it’s because he’s sick and tired of writing about faux occult rubbish and wants to get to the truly hairy stuff, but that doesn’t really come across. He seems more a narrative appendage, to help move the plot along, than an actual person.
In addition, the film may also move somewhat slowly, for those unwilling to settle into its web of anxiety and dread, which oftentimes reduces to a simmer, but never entirely goes away.

Ultimately, Los Sin Nombre may not be perfect, but it’s nonetheless an arresting debut for Balaguero, and is an excellent warm-up act for his subsequent English-language feature, Darkness.

* Among the many awards Los Sin Nombre won in the year 2000, were the CEC Award for Best Editing and the Sitges (Catalonian International Film Festival) award for Best Cinematography.

(The Nameless OS and third image courtesy of; DVD cover art courtesy of

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