Nightmare Box (2013)
Directed by Jon Keeyes
You can sum up Jon Keeyes’ UK indie, Nightmare Box, in one word…unique. However, I’ll elaborate a bit more for those demanding readers that want more out of their movie reviews. The entire film takes place in one surreal room which our unnamed heroine (let’s call her Jane Doe) finds herself trapped. She wakes in this room, which is adorned with everything from giant skulls to Barbie dolls dressed in S&M attire set up in sexual position and can’t remember who she is or how she got there. And that’s the mystery of Nightmare Box. Figure out just what the hell is going on.
Now Jane is not alone in this room. That wouldn’t make for much of a movie, would it? She is constantly visited by an eclectic group of characters that can somehow come and go from the room while she remains trapped. There is a young girl, an eyeless girl, a kindly older gentleman, a bible-thumping Puritan and a man with his lips sewn together who keeps silently offering Jane a gun. And then there are the antagonists, a man and woman who come and go and do all sorts of cruel things to poor Jane.
But as you watch the film, the scenes jump quickly. One moment you’ll be watching Jane interacting with the eyeless girl and things will be getting heated, then suddenly she wakes up and she’s back in her bed again. Or she’ll be getting abused by the man and woman, then suddenly she wakes up and she’s in the bed again. And this goes on and on for the first 35 or 40 minutes of the movie. It would get a bit tedious except all the scenes between Jane and the rest of the cast of characters are actually really intriguing. In fact, you hardly realize that the secrets of the film are being unveiled in each of these moments. And it’s not until everything comes together in the end that you put everything together and realize just how smart this film is.
One thing that jumps out immediately is how solid the acting is amongst the entire cast. Many times the acting in indie films will be a bit lacking, but each and every character in Nightmare Box delivers an impressive performance, most notably Johanna Stanton as Jane and the great Debbie Rochon as the evil antagonist woman. In addition to Stanton and Rochon, veteran actor Nicholas Ball and Matthew Tompkins also provided some great moments.
We also have to mention the quality of the writing in Nightmare Box. Director Jon Keeyes also co-wrote the film with Carl Kirschner and they did an excellent job. Even in the disjointed early scenes, you notice the skill of the writing team, but as the secret of the Nightmare Box is revealed and you realize just what you’ve been watching, the real power of the writing comes through.
As far as the F/X, there aren’t a ton, but most of them are quite well done, especially for an indie film. Sure you can see a little seam here and there, but overall, Keeyes does a nice job of making everything look quite real.
Nightmare Box is a nice surprise of a film. You do have to get through a large chunk of the movie without really knowing what’s going on, which will turn off some viewers. But by the time everything comes together at the end, it all makes sense. Some quality acting performances and an intelligently written story help to cover up any indie warts that the movie may have. This one is definitely worth checking out. Prepare yourself some trippy and somewhat confusing early scenes, but hang in there and you’ll be glad you did with as the explosive ending is well worth the wait.
3 1/2 out of 5