Saturday 25 November 2023

Shudder Saturday: Nightmare (2023)

Although it remains wise to never judge a book by its cover, Nightmare has such a generic title, and familiar imagery used for promotion, that I suspected it wasn't going to win me over with originality. I was correct. Sadly, it didn't win me over with anything else either. This is a dull slog of a movie, and one that I cannot really recommend to anyone else, despite having some decent production value throughout and one hell of a final scene.

The film revolves around Mona (Eili Harboe), a young woman who seems to be having a lot of trouble sleeping. That coincides with her recent thoughts about having a baby with her boyfriend, Robby (Herman Tømmeraas), and her nightmares tend to feature an evil version of Robby out to terrorise her. Maybe a man named Aksel (Dennis Storhøi) can help her, or maybe he has some agenda of his own that will make Mona a valuable asset to him. 

Written and directed by Kjersti Helen Rasmussen, making her feature debut (which explains the feeling viewers may have of watching something with a half-decent idea at the heart of it unable to fulfil any potential), Nightmare is just sadly disappointing throughout. There are a few good individual moments, particularly in the first third of the film, it's all much better before Aksel becomes a main part of the proceedings, but nothing ever feels as if it is properly flowing together or building momentum.

As for the cast, they do what is asked of them. I can't say any more than that, considering how Harboe, Tømmeraas, and Storhøi all work with the weak script. Nobody is able to improve things, but they don't embarrass themselves either. A few other people appear to fill out supporting roles, but the focus generally stays on our central threesome, with all of them struggling to deal with the sleep issues that Mona is having.

Part of me wants to dismiss this completely, especially when I remember other films that have made better use of similar ideas and imagery, but a small part of me wants to give Rasmussen the benefit of the doubt. There's plenty here to admire, especially in a feature debut, and there's always a feeling of definite authorship, particularly as you sit there stunned while the end credits roll. That's not enough to make up for so many of the flaws though, from the weak dialogue to the dull visual style, from the frustrating actions of the characters to the misguided attempt to complicate what could have been an enjoyably simple little chiller.

Others may find more to like in this one, and I would love to hear from anyone who did, but this is a big miss for me. I'll give Rasmussen another chance, but I hope to never have to sit through this again.


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