I know this one is a bit late (dang…this film came out in 2005), but it just popped up on IFC On Demand recently, so I thought I’d give it a whirl.
First, let me start with a bit of a story…
A little bit over a year ago, a buddy and I got together to put together a script for a horror film. We met at Panera Bread, I brought my laptop, and in a short amount of time, the muse hit us and we put together the outline for our first script. Pretty awesome considering we had no idea what we were going to write about when we first got there.
What does that have to do with Nightmare? Well, I frequently thought about our script while watching Dylan Bank’s film, wondering if all first time screenwriters write movies about people making movies that end up affecting their reality. Is it an ego thing? Or just some grand shared-idea kind of thing that all horror writers tap into when they create? We all think that what we’re writing is wholly original, only to find out that we’ve told the same story as other film’s, but in a different way. Is it that subconciously we’ve seen these other films and are influenced by them? And why is it our desire to end the film on a nearly-incomprehensible note? Wasn’t there some philosopher that stated that all creative people shared the same creative mind and just knew how to tap into it? If not, then I’m copyrighting the idea, so don’t steal it.
If you’re wondering why I’m rambling on, it’s because a film like Nightmare inspires these kinds of thoughts. Nightmare tells the story of a group of film students, specifically Jason Scott Campbell (his character’s name is never told), who are trying to come up with the idea for their next student film. Campbell’s character meets a beautiful woman, played by Nicole Roderick, and they end up spending the night together. They wake up to see a video camera sitting at the foot of the bed. Did they film their experience? Neither one of them is owning up to it. Looking at the vid screen and playing the tape inside, they find a video of themselves violently murdering a woman. Neither one of them remembers the incident and, though freaked out, they go about their lives.
That is, until Campbell’s character decides to take their experience and use it as fodder for his student film. It isn’t long before another tape shows up, the evidence of an even more heinous murder. Eventually, Campbell’s character begins to lose his focus on what’s real and what’s in the film he’s making as he tries to meet the demands of an unhappy film crew, all while trying to figure out just who the hell is making them murder people, and how?
As the film started, and the actor’s portraying the film students start talking to each other at a party, I couldn’t help but hate every one of them. Are film school students really like that? I minored in film and did a couple of student films, but I didn’t think my stuff was genius. Still, I guess it has to take a certain egotistic streak to think that these are the films that might help you break into the multi-billion dollar film industry. As the film goes on, you start to hate them less, trust me.
The film gets interesting about fifteen minutes in when the first tape is found. I did have a hard time believing that, at least for the first two tapes, the characters would treat finding evidence that they murdered people with such levity but, as the film comes to an end, it makes sense. And that’s one thing that I will say for this film … you MUST be a patient horror fan to get anything out of this film. The story starts off intriguing and suspenseful but, as the tension builds, comprehension lessens. For a good 15/20 minutes, the film is pretty much incomprehensible, and I can’t help but feel as if that piece of the film actually took away a bit from the message it was trying to give, rather than helped it.
Still, as the last fifteen minutes roll around, and the protagonist starts to get the revelation as to just who the director of this film is, the film starts to make sense again and actually has a pretty satisfying end. The only negative thing I’ll say about the ending is that, with the way it’s done, it ends up feeling a bit more jokey than I think was intended.
A couple of the actors spend the majority of the film naked and one of the characters, the DP on the film, ends up being the voice of the audience for the majority of the film. “This doesn’t make any sense!” “This is pornographic!” “Where are you going with this?” Almost all of these thoughts entered my mind around the same time that they did hers. Still, based on how the rest of the film was written, I can’t help but feel this was totally intentional on the filmmakers’ parts.
Overall, I dug the film, but I did find myself questioning that throughout the majority of the running time. To enjoy it, you really need to be two things. Patient and a fan of horror. If you don’t meet either of these requirements, don’t bother. It doesn’t transcend the horror genre like some David Lynch films do, but if you’ve seen a Lynch film, you’ve got a good idea of what you’re in for.
You can watch Nightmare on IFC ON DEMAND now!
Paul’s Awesomeness Score – 7 out of 10