The Nightmare (FANTASTIC) Lulls You to Sleep
Title: The Nightmare
First Non-Festival Release: TBD
Director: Kjersti Helen Rasumussen
Writer: Kjersti Helen Rasumussen
Runtime: 100 Minutes
Starring: Elli Harboe, Herman Tømmeraas, Dennis Storhøi
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
This film’s review was written after its screening at the Fantastic Film Festival in 2022.
Mona (Elli Harboe) moves into a new apartment with her long-term boyfriend, Robbie (Herman Tømmeraas). Their initial excitement is blunted when their housewarming party is interrupted by an angry neighbor begging them to quiet down so their baby can get some sleep. The chilly reception lingers in her mind as Mona remains at home, having dropped out of school, while Robbie spends longer hours at work. Her problems intensify when she experiences terrible nightmares and bouts of violent sleepwalking. Searching for answers, Mona discovers that she has been marked by a powerful demon for a sinister ritual that he is steadfast in carrying out on her.
Familiar sleep paralysis horror is propped up by equally over done social messaging in The Nightmare.
Nightmares are terrifying, or at least scary to most people, because they are common and relatable. Sleep paralysis and night terrors are common in horror, especially in supernatural films. When focusing on a specific demon, it is difficult to make the film stand out considering its overuse in more generic horror films. Other than one extremely well done demon confrontation scene, most of the film looks like a typical sleek horror film with a blue tint. Overall, the film is just generic in every sense of the word aside from the extended metaphors on motherhood and abortion.
The Nightmare intertwines its general premise of a nightmare inducing demon with that of forced pregnancy. Throughout the entire film Mona is bombarded with little moments where her agency is challenged regarding her excitement of motherhood. From her boyfriend to nosy doctors, it seems like everyone has an opinion on what she should do with her body. This is further perpetuated with the concept of the Mare raping Mona in her sleep at night in hopes of being born again in her baby.
With the current state of the world, women’s right to abortion is constantly challenged. In The Nightmare, it is supernaturally opposed. No matter what Mona does with her body when she is awake, it is guaranteed that the Mare will re-impregnate her again against her will. This feeling of being trapped leads Mona to desperate measures to free herself from this terror. It is also no surprise that the demon shows himself to Mona in the form of her real-life boyfriend. This mimics the pressure to be a mother that many women face, as if it is a desire inherent within all women. When Mona finally shares her reservations, Robbie breaks down, as if that was never a possibility that occurred to him.
While the dark Norwegian folklore and timely themes don’t work together, there are moments of brilliance that shine through in The Nightmare. Lead Elli Harboe delivers a commendable performance as Mona. Her terror and determination are palpable in her voice and body language. The subversions of some sleep terror tropes allow The Nightmare to give itself an edge to other similarly themed films. Danger following and emanating from Mona both in sleeping and waking moments give the film an element of unpredictability in terms of violence. It also allows the terror to be all consuming in Mona’s life and those around her.
While it is a technically well-done film, The Nightmare makes little effort to distinguish itself from far better crafted films on the same subject. Other than its specific Norwegian folklore, the execution feels lacking considering the repetitive nature of the horror involved. It works as a middling horror drama with an interesting twist of assault-happy sleepwalkers but the pieces don’t fit together in the end. It does get points for its interesting takes on women’s bodily autonomy and connection with the real-life lore behind sleep paralysis. In the end, The Nightmare is one you’ve had before, so if that is up your alley feel free to let it permeate your dreams.
Overall Score? 5/10