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Release Date: 09/29/23 [Shudder]
Genre: Horror. Thriller.

Studio: Shudder.

"Not all nightmares are over when you wake up." 


Nightmare has all the promise of a spectacular debut from Norwegian writer-director Kjersti Helen Rasmussen because of its interesting, albeit not original premise. Mona, a pregnant young woman, suffers from night terrors and is soon sure her unborn child will be possessed by evil. But the tenuous plot has a hard time sticking the landing.  


After moving into an expansive, spacious apartment, young couple Mona (Eili Harboe) and Robbie (Herman Tømmeraas) think they struck a great deal on the place. The home is a fixer-upper but bigger than the couple can afford, yet surprisingly cheap. Robbie is excited, and shortly after, Mona is pregnant. 


Mona’s night terrors and bouts of sleepwalking increase, exacerbating the possibility of pregnancy complications. The couple turns to a specialist in sleep disorders. The doctor, Axsel (Dennis Storhøi), muses to Mona that she might be facing a Mare - a mythical creature where our bad dreams get their namesake. The mounting dread of Mona’s nightmares begins to blur her reality, and she begins to confuse what is real and what is happening in her sleep. 


There are some quality attributes in Rasmussen’s film. Most notably, the Oskar Dahlsbakken's cinematography affects mood and atmosphere as the conflict between Mona’s sense of reality increases and truly delivers. This is a good-looking film, and Rasmussen’s camera work does well in the tight corners of the couple’s apartment to convey confusion and chaos as Mona begins to spiral. The editing and sound design, two heavies in horror, contribute to the film's creep factor.


The supporting cast, while not extensive, is all serviceable and helps drive the plot, Harboe’s performance as Mona does the heavy lifting. And she nails it. I was reminded of some of the more high-caliber A24 horror performances of the last decade with how convincing, desperate, and horrified Harboe’s Mona came across. 


Unfortunately, performances and lighting only carry Nightmare so far. This film is ambitious, and while I can applaud Rasmussen for taking a big swing with this debut, Nightmare is all over the place. Some glaring screenwriting holes could have been polished and fixed with one or two rewrites. Arguably, the biggest issue with this film is its lack of identity; Nightmare doesn’t know what film it wants to be. Is it a possession movie? A haunted house movie? A medical and pregnancy horror movie? A direct film about nightmares? It's a little of all of those, and that’s where Nightmare finds itself on shaky ground. 


There are flashes to all types of different horror genres throughout and it was a challenge to attach myself as the movie tried to be an amalgamation of many horror tropes instead of a confident, solid horror entry. Nightmare fell short on the scares, sometimes boring me, however it wasn’t a bad dry run for something better. Nevertheless, Rasmussen has a good eye as a director and will likely have a bright future in horror storytelling.

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