Irish ‘psychotropic faery story’ Without Name is “imbued with a genuine sense of the creepy” says Dara Higgins
Eric (Alan McKenna) is a surveyor, a man who works, and lives it seems, in silence. When he’s given a contract to survey a large plot of forest somewhere out in the vastness of Ireland’s bog, he leaves his sterile, grey family and drives into the rain and mist towards his destiny. It’s windblown, raw and bog-like out there, and the land he’s supposed to survey, for some shady looking corporate type who wants it done on the QT, is a sprawling wood: the “non specific” place Without Name.
Olivia (Niamh Algar), a student of Eric’s, turns up to help with the plotting of the land – the job’s too big for one lone miserablist. Within five minutes he’s slipping her the mickey so it’s clear that Eric has problems all over the gaff. Life’s complicated. He seeks solace in the simplicity of his work, but that’s not panning out as planned. Data goes missing, equipment is tampered with, there’s a ghost in tights larking about the woods. It’s cold, the wind howls, the rain falls. Shadows abound, fleet about, play across the walls.
The film’s imbued with a genuine sense of the creepy. The old cottage that Eric is staying in looks draughty and dank, claustrophobically glum. Within he finds weird old photos and raving writing of the previous tenant, a man named Devoy who apparently went daft, according to sages down the local boozer. Resident caravan living crusty Gus (played with authentic gusto by James Browne) invites Eric and Olivia in to his hovel for tea and mushies and they expand their minds, psychedelically, maaaan. What a trip that was. But here be monsters, and Eric unconscious mind is clearly a place he was avoiding contact with for a reason. The man’s oppressed, like. Issues. Wazoo.
Without Name sets itself up nicely. There’s nary a word spoken for the first ten minutes, and the foreboding, verdant silence of the woods creates a tension, aided by the marvellously atmospheric music. The measured first act doesn’t pay off, however, and by the end the head-scratching is less makes-you–think and more is-that-it? Strobing lights and pulsating sound effects do not a horror make, not on their own.
This debut picture from Lorcan Finnegan suggests the man has a deft hand with atmosphere, but hasn’t quite married that with a narrative flair. It seems as if the story is one of the land rejecting attempts for it be owned, an ecological parable if you will, or the story of a man who can’t really come to grips with the mess he’s made of his life. In the end, it’s kinda neither.