TIFF 2016: ‘Without Name’ Rewards Patience With Madness

Who’s Behind It

Directed by Lorcan Finnegan and written by Garret Shanley, who previously collaborated on the 2012 short, Foxes. Without Name is the Irish duo’s feature debut.

Who’s In It

Alan McKenna, Niamh Algar, and James Browne.

Who’ll Love It

Patient horror fans intrigued by obsessive characters who slowly descend into madness.


What’s It About

Eric (Alan McKenna) is land surveyor, struggling with a midlife crisis and a chilly family life. When he’s sent to an isolated forest on a mysterious assignment, he notices some unsettling oddities, including a shadowy figure that keeps appearing in the woods. Before long, he’s joined by his research assistant/mistress, Olivia (Niamh Algar), which does little to improve his spirits. During an otherwise uneventful evening, they find themselves socializing with a local who offers a reprieve from their tedious hard work—in the form of psilocybin mushrooms. After some hesitation, Eric agrees to partake, a decision that causes him to fall further under the spell of the forest, culminating in his disappearance and a shocking encounter with the creepy forest man.

Why You Should See It

If nothing else, Without Name is the kind of horror film that rewards patience. It’s almost puzzling how long we follow Eric before any real drama or mystery is introduced and, even then, it takes over an hour for any events of real significance to take place. The TIFF program suggests parallels to Roman Polanski’s The Tenant, a comparison that captures the film’s glacial pacing and mysterious sense of unease, but its natural environment more vividly brings to mind Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist. Unfortunately, Without Name lacks the highs and lows of that unforgettable film, though director Lorcan Finnegan does manage to create some similarly striking widescreen visuals. Beginning with a warning about strobing imagery that could have a negative effect on some viewers, the film takes its sweet time delivering on that promise, but this proves to be a memorably disorienting, hallucinatory sequence. In the end, Without Name emerges as a well-crafted, if occasionally frustrating, horror effort that should please those who prefer restraint to the genre’s more overtly shocking potential.

When You Can See It

Wednesday, September 14 at 9:45pm (Scotiabank); Friday, September 16 at 12:30pm (Jackman Hall). Tickets available here. Release date to be determined.

Check out the teaser below.