Nightmare Movie Review
Written by Steve Pattee
A Merlion Films Production
Directed by Dylan Bank
Written by Dylan Bank and Morgan Pehme
2005, 111 minutes, Rated R
Jason Scott Campbell
Nicole Roderick as Natalya
Amin Act Joseph as Omar
At a party where he seems to be the man of honor for the success of his film, a young filmmaker (Jason Scott Campbell) meets Natalya (Nicole Roderick), who claims to have never seen his movie. After some small talk, the two end up in a bedroom having (almost angry) sex.
The next morning, they awake to find a video camera placed at the foot of the bed, something neither of them noticed the night before. Curious to see what's on the tape, they watch what was filmed.
To their surprise, the tape does not contain them having sex, but two people that look like them not in the act of passion, but in the act of murder.
The filmmaker hands the tape off to Natalya and runs off to his class — which he is already late for. The class is very important as he has to pitch his next movie idea, but he promises to contact her later.
At class, the young filmmaker pitches an idea about a Civil War movie that does not go over well. At all. In a moment of panic, or brilliance, the filmmaker pitches another movie.
The movie he pitches is eerily similar to the events that took place the night before. When asked for more detail, he explains it is an ongoing script. The teacher and the other students love the idea and, later on, he finds that his movie will be filmed.
Later, he gets together with Natalya again. After another night of passionate (almost angry) sex, they awake to find another camera in front of the bed. And the tape contains the same scary result. Two people, who look very much like the couple, murdering someone.
After some investigation by the filmmaker, it seems that the people being slaughtered on the video are real people.
Now, under the stress of watching someone who looks like him murder people, and the stress of making a movie of what he's going through, the young filmmaker seems to slowly lose his mind as the line between fantasy and reality starts to blur.
Nightmare is a thinking man's horror film.
On my first viewing, I didn't like the movie. It seemed to be all over the place and trying too hard to be "artsy." So I gave it another shot.
On my second viewing, however, the movie was much more enjoyable. I knew what to expect. This is not your typical slasher film, if it can even be considered a slasher film at all. It does have sex, blood, gore and nudity, but it also has intelligent writing. The movie forces you to pay attention to determine what is real and what is fantasy, and sometimes, like the character, you don't even know.
Nightmare is a huge undertaking for a low-budget film because, rather than being a throwaway-for-a-quick-buck slasher like many (if not most) low-budget films, it attempts — and, in most ways, succeeds — to be something more. But in order to pull it off, director Dylan Bank must have the cast with the ability to do so. And boy, does he.
Jason Scott Campbell, as the unnamed lead, is rock solid and pulls off the demanding role with ease. The range of emotions Campbell must display throughout the movie — anger, fear, confusion, pain — are all very believable.
In addition, Nicole Roderick's performance as Natalya is just as good. She is awesome at making the transition from confused women to hellcat to crazed killer, all at the drop of a dime.
Bank also gets credit for actually having a visual style so early in his career. It's rare that I will watch a movie from a first-time director and say to myself, "Self, that's a pretty good shot." It's even more rare that I do it more than once in a film. While watching Nightmare, I did it quite a few times.
Like the acting, story and directing, the music in Nightmare stands above its low-budget brethren. Kangol's simple but haunting score is integral to the movie, and Nightmare would not be the same without it.
Nightmare is not a movie that can be watched just once, because the first viewing is just putting your feet in the water to check the temperature. A second viewing is just going into the wading pool. But by the third viewing, you are getting your swim on, appreciating it more and more. This is in the realm of Donnie Darko, where things become a little clearer with each viewing. And it's well worth the trouble trying to decipher the mystery of the Nightmare.
Audio, video and special features will not be graded, as this is a screener.
Nightmare is shopping around for distribution, and I hope it gets picked up. While it won't be for all horror fans, those who give it a chance will not be disappointed.
(Equipment includes a Mitsubishi WS-48613 48” HDTV, Sony DVP-NS50P DVD player and Onkyo HTS-770 Home Theater System and, in some cases, a Sony 27” WEGA TV and a Cyberhome CH-DVD300 DVD player.)