Nightmare (2005)

Starring J. Bloomrosen, Jolan Boockver, Jason Scott Campbell

Directed by Dylan Bank

When one sits down to create, whether it be filming a movie, writing, or painting, we are, in effect, giving life to something. Molding our hands around Promethean clay, we breathe holy fire into these works in the hopes that they will conjure up images, creations, that will endure. Yet, is there a degree of hubris mixed with ignorance that plagues all of this? Is there any amount of responsibility that is owed to these artistic endeavors? Should we be concerned for the troubles and traumas that we put our creations through? Does giving part of one’s soul to something make it in return alive? In the horror genre, ideas of people and actions are set into cerebral motion all the time, and these actions are usually amongst the most base of all human behaviors. Do Horrorsmiths run the risk of losing themselves, or some semblance of their humanity, in this danse macabre with death?

Nightmare is a test of this dangerous idea. A young, promising film student becomes ensnared in a surreal vortex of insanity. Meeting a dark and mysterious woman at a party, he is instantly entranced by her. Their bodies mix and mash in bestial copulation. The embrace is less about emotion than it is pure physical delight. Nightmare keeps the viewer on edge with its use of sex as a marked element of the film. Even though the actors are not engaged in coital acts, explicit nudity is present. This bare skin unnerves the viewer, and recalls the most extreme of all nightmare scenarios.

A night of raw physical lust leads to a morning filled with brash reality. Standing at the foot of the bed is a camera, looking at the two with an unblinking eye. The lens knowingly fixed on them as they lay through the night. Intrigued, they bite at the idea of it, a documentation of the evenings happenings. This is greeted with images channeled from the lower levels of the Inferno itself. Instead of the fluid movements of familiar flesh on flesh, the electronic interloper relays a display of violations, alienation, and of death made by their own hands.

Here is where the questions begin. Who made the tape? How was it done? The two were in bed, sleeping all night long. Unarguably presented is an alternate vision of the evening, with naked bodies clambering over each other not in carnal desire, but in murderous psychosis. Leery of each other, but locked in this most secret of covenants, each is sure of one thing: It is them on the tape. They study it and in the moment, they lose track of the most fleeting of elements; time. He rushes off, abandoning her to dwell on the conundrum of the tape.

He rushes off to film class. Here, mind fettered with the burden of the enigmatic situation, he stumbles his pitch for the student film. Angered, he challenges the class with an alternate version, one that is too clear and too dangerous for him not to consider. He recounts the last few hours of his life to the class, leaving off at the point where he began, standing in front of them in class, having just bungled his aforementioned pitch.

The decision is made to make the film of this event. Unfortunately, there is woefully little material. Not nearly enough is present to make a complete film until a new tape is found. Despite its hideous content, the director only sees more material for the movie. At the same time, even bigger questions form as the people on the tapes begin to look like real missing people. The young director becomes obsessed with the making of the film, which he believes will answer the question crawling out of all of the madness; Who the real director of the film is.

Jason Scott Campbell plays the unnamed director in the film. He has a clean angled face and an ability to tap into an animalistic rage that plays out well in the construct of the film. It is his grappling with the meaning of the tapes, what they say about his life, or even the nature of his reality as a whole, that is the centrepiece of the film. His anguish. His torment. Campbell’s portrayal of the decadent downward spiral proves to be key in Nightmare’s success.

The apple in his eyepiece is the alluring Nicole Roderick. She embraces a difficult and daring role with grace and pure ability. As with Campbell, she is just as responsible for selling a film whose terrors are not concrete, but psychological. She has an uncanny talent with her ability to shift between innocent and deeply knowing looks in a millisecond. She embodies the mysterious nature of the film in her face. Her wide and open eyes catch the light and make us feel safe, but deeper within her gaze is a silent story that peeks out untold. We want to know more about her, but have to be patient to uncover the truth.

The screenplay by director Dylan Bank and Morgan Pehme is as challenging as they get. This is not a film for the popcorn crowds who just want to sit back and enjoy splatter while their brain is set on coast. This film is a deeply intellectual involvement of the viewer. One needs to pay the closest of attention to the scenarios being set, and a second viewing is most recommended for those who think they may have a grip on the yarn that the film is spinning.

Mention has to go to the cinematography of Valentia Caniglia. Albeit an independent work, Nightmare is as beautiful as a film should be. Ranging between the grotesque claustrophobic visions of human form made hellscape to the skyline at sunset, the camera is sure to make the most of all of it. At times, Nightmare seems to be experimenting in a new style of Expressionism, using visions that are sure to effect emotional response, but without losing the narrative to the simple evocation of emotion. A tricky road to tread. Nightmare proceeds to dwell firmly between the irrational world of feelings and the intellectual world of thought.

No more so is this prevalent than in the subtle music provided for the film by Kangol. With such instruments as simple piano and strings, the score is unusual and personal. It offsets the scenes of the bizarre, and works to facilitate the viewing of the film to a place that allows us to see past the thin layer of celluloid in front of us. Some films, want to have the music make the film. Their focus seems not to accentuate but to over stimulate. Kangol’s work on Nightmare fits like the right wine for the main course, allowing the film to be digested with no pains at all.

My enthusiasm for a film like this could not be greater. I love the philosophic arguments that bubble to the top of the brain during films like this. Dreams, nightmares, reality, and film all have an internet of their own. They seem to be connected. Just as a nightmare is a variation of a dream, film is a variation of reality. Cronenberg waltzed once with this issue with Videodrome, bringing the world of video made flesh to the forefront of the cinematic world. Nightmare does the same, but asks a from a different perspective. If we film our dreams, and in essence make them real, then what is to stop nightmares from becoming more powerful, farther reaching, and extensively more pervasive than we ever imagined.

Long Live the New flesh.

5 out of 5

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