DVD Review: Nightmare (2005)


Now Available on DVD

According to Nightmare's naïve co-writer and first time filmmaker David Bank, the film was made specifically for fellow "hardcore horror fans" whom Bank dubs "the most sophisticated" movie viewers around in a pretentious DVD extra. Yet since this extra consists of Bank and co-writer Morgan Pehme's attempts to interpret the film's ending for viewers who have managed to make it through the pointlessly exploitative feature film, you realize that obviously the filmmakers don't really have a lot of respect for the purported intelligence of their fellow horror fans.

Furthermore and equally luckily, we're quick to ascertain that we don't have much respect for Bank and Pehme either as it becomes increasingly obvious that not only do they believe they're superior to all other filmgoers and indeed most filmmakers (since they claim they can figure out every movie right away), but that ironically the guys honestly have no idea what the film they've made actually means themselves. Thus, aside from the opportunity to relish in carnage, consistent nudity and aggressive sexuality that moved from psychosexual (think Eyes Wide Shut) straight to pornographic, we have no idea why this aptly named Nightmare was unleashed on the public in the first place.

However, most intelligent viewers started recognizing the shallow dead-ends that awaited us in the film as fast as Bank and Pehme argue they can all the time. To this end, we gather that overall one purpose they had in making the film is their supreme enjoyment to point fingers at the audience they'd just pledged allegiance to by attempting to make us feel like sick voyeurs for watching their snuff film about a snuff film in the tragic hope that we'd foolishly believed that there may have been-- if not a point-- than at least a plot.

In a movie that makes Vacancy look like high art, the otherwise talented Jason Scott Campbell stars as our nameless main character since nobody in the piece could even remotely be considered a protagonist. After making Christian Bale like American Psycho faces in the mirror, Campbell's film student who (of course!) is considered a cinematic genius has a violently lust-crazed one-night stand with Nicole Roderick's aspiring actress at a party only to awaken to the sight of a video camera on a tripod at the food of their bed aimed directly at the two.

Although nothing about the characters felt remotely authentic, illogically the two go from feeling violated to turned on, watching the tape to discover that they're watching themselves commit the most horrific of murders with strangers in that very room. After a perfunctory investigation involving one individual and a few lame rhetorical questions, for no reason whatsoever other than male vanity and pride, our film student decides not to consult actual police detectives by instead choosing to play detective cinematically since he's a wannabe director after all.

Almost upstaged in class by a perpetually smiling sycophantic classmate who believes in (gasp!) structure, Campbell's character chooses to pitch what he just experienced as though it were all a (really bad, obviously) script idea. While David Lynch's name is thrown about casually, again the class adheres to our main character's purported genius stature even though you're sure that somebody would've had a better idea in the group and we sadly wish we could've followed that plot.

Yet, no, dammit, it's Bank's movie after all so they embark on making a film about his nightmarish situation which conveniently continues for the sake of the unwritten screenplay each and every night that he spends both with and away from the same woman who oddly accepts the role in his class film. Similarly avoiding reality for the sake of a snuff film, the two characters lose our sympathy once more in their decision to reenact their horrifying insanity on a daily basis as well as in their nightmares so that they put themselves through it 24/7 in a lazy film-within-a-film device as opposed to doing something original with it by making them try to deal with the problem at hand for real rather than "movie real."

Depraved and disgusting not to mention unbearable for viewers, we're forced to watch this horror-free shock-fest wherein nudity, violence, gore, and sexuality all intermingle and repeat ad nauseum until finally the director simply decides to stop the film. Pointlessly brutal, extreme, in-your-face and juvenile, Nightmare is like David Lynch's Lost Highway without hypnotically poetic visuals, Michael Haneke's Cache without the intellect, Mary Harron's American Psycho without the social allegory, and Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange without the plot.
Likewise, it's also one that makes me think that, with only a very few exceptions aside, it's time for an independent filmmaking moratorium on indie filmmakers making films about indie filmmakers wherein we see the same half-baked plot twice in their film-within-a-film that is only made that way for their own amusement.

With zero regard for the actors or the audience accept to their own twisted hedonistic whims of how much torture they can inflict on both at the same time, Nightmare is one of the most irresponsible, immature, incomprehensible and angrily misogynistic and misanthropic works I've seen in a long while. So in the end, while Bank and Pehme may enjoy saying viewers (essentially themselves as "hardcore horror fans") are sick for watching, as a critic who had to finish it, I'm pleased to warn viewers to avoid this sick Nightmare at all costs. And in doing so, I'm happy to save the viewers they pretend to respect-- but I actually do for seeking out independent movies-- two precious hours of their lives with the recommendation to view any of their aforementioned influences again instead.

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