Eric Maybury is an alien, an intruder, isolated among the grey broken rocks of the quarry where he sets up his scientific equipment, measuring and quantifying, at the breakfast table he shares with his family, silent but for the bleeps of his son’s iPad game. He stares at a splash of green in the cracked concrete of the car park, a shoot creeping through where none should exist before he departs the city, a single road cutting through the rolling hills.
In contrast to the mundane urban sprawl where Eric lives, out here it is the trappings of modernity which are the oddity unkempt and uncharted nature for which he has been charged with the first steps in bringing it into line with the envious eyes of the developers, unsympathetic and hungry for new spaces upon which to build profit.
In the lonely run down cottage he uses as his base of operations, hand crafted furniture with the heft and presence of real wood, Eric peruses the bookshelves before settling down for the night; beside Occult Defence, The Irish Twilight and Supernatural Nature he finds the hand-written and illustrated volume of the former occupant William Devoy, Knowledge of Trees, and begins to read.
Debut feature of director Lorcan Finnegan from a script by Garret Shanley, Without Name screened at the Dead by Dawn festival as a double bill with their 2012 short Foxes with which it shares themes of the encroachment into the few remaining wild spaces by developers and the patient persistence of nature pushing back, reclaiming the land and tricking the unwary, turning them against themselves.
A film of atmosphere and location rather than driven plot it finds its place among the endless trees rather than in the company of the reserved characters. Eric (Alan McKenna of ABCs of Death 2‘s S is for Split) is comfortable alone but the undertaking will go faster with a second pair of hands in the presence of student assistant Olivia (From the Dark‘s Niamh Algar); she’s let him down before but has a place in the field and in his borrowed bed.
While Eric could use a second pair of eyes to corroborate his results, the plumb line of his theodolite refusing to settle, instead describing increasingly violent circles, a casual violation of the laws of physics which ceases as abruptly as the weather changes, Olivia has more in common with caravan dwelling dropout Gus (The Quiet Hour‘s James Browne), happy to invite them in for tea and magic mushrooms and stories of those who lost their minds in the forest without name, never mapped until Eric’s attempt, and those who were lost entirely.
Described as an eco-horror, Without Name is creepy rather than scary, roots deep in the land in which is set, mist rolling through the lichen and moss encrusted trunks, paced as an artefact from another time of less urgent demands and expectations, an experimental Play for Today from the same era which produced The Stone Tape, Penda’s Fen, The Changes and Red Shift which slipped beneath the radar, Gavin O’Brien and Neil O’Connor’s soundtrack shifting between ethereal folk and faded memories of the Radiophonic Workshop.
While the plot may be more slight than the similarly twisted dark folk tale The Hallow it does not stumble in the final act as that film did; as lost as Eric becomes, Finnegan walks the hidden paths between the trees confidently. A beautifully filmed bad trip, Shrooms without the bloody body count, Without Name may be unlikely to appeal to the multiplex demographic of major studio horror but for those who already walk the woods in search of escape or hallucinogenic enlightenment it is certainly sufficient.
Without Name is currently on limited release and is scheduled for release on DVD on 3rd July