Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Nightmare, on Shudder

Slam some coffee or Mountain Dew and try to sleep as little as possible. That is the health advice we regularly get from horror movies, so it only seems prudent to follow it. Seriously, sleep paralysis and night terrors will get you every time. Mona definitely suffers from such disorders, but with demonic complications in screenwriter-director Kjersti Helen Rasmussen’s Nightmare, which premieres Friday on Shudder.

Mona and her boyfriend Robby just bought their own apartment, surprisingly cheap. Why yes, somebody died there, but the details are vague. The neighbors are also rather high-strung and it isn’t just the stress of having a new born. Unfortunately, all that distress seems to migrate to Mona after the mother’s suicide.

It is hard for Mona to discuss her nightmares with Robby, partly because he is an insensitive idiot, but also because it is his dark doppelganger who terrorizes her dreams. Sleep specialist Aksel Bruun has seen it before. In fact, he saw it when he tried to treat Mona’s neighbor. His sleep clinic is state of the art, but for a medical man, he is strangely well versed in the lore of Mare, the nightmare demon.

distinguishes itself from other sleep paralysis horror movies with its sinister demonic twist. These aren’t just creepy guys in hats. Dennis Storhoi is also terrific as Bruun, playing him in the Peter Cushing tradition of doctors fighting evil supernatural forces, but with more Scandinavian reserve.

Herman Tommeraas also gives off the right bad John-Cassavetes-in-
Rosemary’s Baby vibes as Robby. There is something about him that feels off, beyond his being a Millennial. However, Eili Harboe just doesn’t connect as Mona to the extent she did playing the title character in Joachim Trier’s Thelma.

Nevertheless, Rasmussen made an impressively unnerving film, by amplifying the archetypal dread of increasingly familiar horror motifs. The finale falls a bit flat, but if I had a sack full of good horror movie endings for sale, I’d be a rich man.

also reminds us that abortion laws are much more restrictive in supposedly socially-permissive Scandinavia than they are here in most American states. In Norway, abortion is only available on-demand through the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and then increasingly regulated and restricted thereafter. Honestly, this is what abortion law equilibrium will eventually look like in America, but for now, the two extremes unyieldingly demand either everything or nothing. Now that I have alienated just about everyone, I’ll recommend Nightmare to fans of sleep paralysis and demonic horror, when it starts streaming Friday (9/29) on Shudder.