Horror movies are hard to do these days. Getting an audience member to feel the terror and feel for the characters at the same time is not easy for today’s filmmakers. For the most part you either scare the audience, or you have good enough characters to care about when the scares aren’t enough. Nightmare, directed by Dylan Bank, is a film with good characters but no real scares and almost no real center to make it’s rather wacky plot even remotely tangible.
When an unnamed film school student (Jason Scott Campbell) wakes up after an odd sexual encounter with the gorgeous and intense actress Natalya (Nicole Roderick), he finds a camera with a tape inside sitting on the bed. The tape contains an eerie tagline on the front: “Never Wake Up.”
The film student plays the tape and finds a rather brutal murder taking place that involves him and his new found love. Is it a real event? Is it some film left unfinished by the main character? To find the answers to these questions, The filmmaker (along with his film school buddies) decides to re-enact the events within the film in order to piece together the mystery behind the tape.
I tend to go for the films, sometimes, that avoid a straightforward plot structure. However left of center they become, these films are only as good as the center that brings them back together. If there are too many distractions from what's happening, it can become frustrating for the viewer.
Takashi Miike's Audition is an example of how to moderate the need to go off-track. For most of the film, until the very last half, the movie is played like a typical romantic drama. Slowly but surely, while still staying on the original premise, things begin to happen that seem out of left-field, but keep the film from being dizzy.
Jason Scott Campbell and Nicole Roderick do well as the leads. There was a point in the film where I couldn’t decide who was creepier, Roderick’s passionate and emotional Natalya or the simmer-then-boil personality of Campbell’s unnamed main character.
The supporting characters existing in Campbell’s character’s circle stick in good performances as well. The standouts for me are Sean Matic as Nick, a friend of the unnamed filmmaker and Armin Joseph, who bares a strong resemblance to Mekhi Phifer and plays a rather intense actor named Omar.
The special features aren’t all that much. You get an interview, an alternate ending,and a trailer. The cover poster on the DVD is very alluring and probably will get people to watch the film. There’s nothing like seeing a guy with blood all over the front of his face to scare the crap out of you.
Nightmare works as a film if you like puzzles. This puzzle unfortunately left me confused. I'm sure it will gain some kind of cult status somewhere in the near future.