J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

The Nightmare: A Girl and Her Creature

Tina’s creature looks like a cross between E.T. and Gollum, but he is symbiotic and perhaps supernatural—or psychosomatic. Of course, she might be dead already, so it wouldn’t matter. Yet, she still must contend with peer pressure and social media shaming in director-screenwriter AKIZ [Achim Bornhak]’s The Nightmare (trailer here), which releases today on DVD from KimStim/Icarus Films.

Tina was one of the mean girls, until that fateful pool rave. Her bad trip starts when one of the drug-snorting sons of entitlement shows her a viral video of a woman getting mowed down by a speeding car. Shortly thereafter, that video plays out in real life, with Tina facing the business end of the hit-and-run bumper. One life-flashing-before-her-eyes later, Tina comes to after supposedly fainting. Things get weirder still when she hears a slimy critter that would not look out of place in the Ghoulies franchise knocking about in the kitchen. Naturally, her white bread parents see and hear nothing, but when the imp cuts himself, she shares the blood and pain, like a Corsican Brother.

Consequently, everyone starts to assume Tina is crazy, because that is how she is acting. Inevitably, this leads to mockery and ostracization at school. It also might lead to institutionalization, since nobody else can see her personal demon, except during the times when they can.

AKIZ fuses together a bunch of elements that would not ordinarily look like they went together, sort of like a cross between Before I Fall and Bad Milo! played scrupulously straight. The fact that it works at all constitutes a minor miracle. The intentionally and effectively disorienting style certainly helps. AKIZ literally pumps up the volume and unleashes the strobe effects to immerse viewers in these club kids’ milieu. With its flashy look and pulsating soundtrack, Der Nachtmahr could also be thought of as the pouty teen spawn of Tony Scott’s The Hunger.

Regardless, Carolyn Genzkow falls apart pretty spectacularly. She definitely nails the Polanski-esque creeping madness vibe, but it must be said, she also looks distressingly thin. As is happens, Tina is already in therapy even before she maybe dies and meets a monster, so perhaps we can speculate eating disorders were an issue. In any event, she might start feeling better with a little nutrition. She and her BFF co-stars, Lynne Femme and Sina Tkotsch perfectly balance snarky cattiness and hypocritical kiss-kiss sisterhood. Frankly, they will make you glad you are not a German teen girl, circa 2015.

AKIZ definitely pulls you in, but it is hard not to get distracted wondering how he will bring it all home down the stretch. He doesn’t quite stick the dismount, but it is not for a lack of effort or degree of difficulty. If you want a distinctive film, this is a distinctive film. Recommended in all its head-scratching messiness, The Nightmare is now available on DVD.

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