Second Name (2002)

Rating: B-

Dir: Paco Plaza
Star: Erica Prior, Denis Rafter, Frank O’Sullivan, John O’Toole

Following the success of The Nameless, Spanish cinema once again opted to raid the works of Ramsey Campbell, a writer sadly ignored by Hollywood (which is presumably too busy buying the rights to Stephen King’s shopping-list). Though the theme remains a murderous religious cult, the approach taken is different: this is entirely in English, with a mostly-British cast. Daniella Logan (Prior) is trying to find out why her father killed herself – and why his grave was robbed and his corpse tied in a praying posture. To make matters worse, a disfigured man is now stalking her: does family friend Simon (Rafter) have something to do with it, and what about the Catholic priest lurking nearby?

For my money, it works more effectively than Nameless, though you have first to get past an opening twenty minutes which are almost impenetrable. As things begin to be revealed, however, you’ll be rewarded with a premise that manages to generate a very acceptable degree of creepiness, without using any supernatural elements. This is despite an unconvincing performance from Prior, and merely adequate ones from most of the rest of the cast; credit thus to writer-director Plaza and co-writer Fernando MarĂ­as, for going past the actors’ inadequacies. Certainly, the end result is a nasty insight into what happens when religious extremism is allowed to fester over generations, overpowering normal morality.