Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Nightwatch: Demons are Forever, on Shudder

Serial killers are beyond reform or redemption—but that’s a good thing for movie producers. When a serial killer film is successful, they can always make a sequel, even in Denmark. If you haven’t seen the original Nightwatch or the American remake (both helmed by Ole Bornedal), forget the name Peter Wormer. It seemed Martin Bork and Kalinka Martens survived the killer at the end of the 1994 film, but they never escaped the post-traumatic stress. Unfortunately, Wormer also survived, so he most likely returns to his old ways in Bornedal’s Nightwatch: Demons are Forever, which premieres Friday on Shudder.

Despite the promise of a happy marriage, Martens was paranoid Wormer would return for her and Bork, she took her own life several years ago. Maybe in a future sequel, we will learn she was really murdered, but Bornedal does go there yet. Consequently, Bork has been a pill-popping shell of himself, who is largely dependent on his college student daughter Emma (played by the director’s daughter, Fanny Leander Bornedal), rather than vice versa.

Obviously, it is an extraordinarily bad idea, but Emma takes the same night watchman job at the morgue where her father worked in the first film. Her parents never told her about the incident with Wormer, so Emma hopes to learn more at the infamous site. However, her family investigation quickly leads her to the state mental hospital, where the blind and supposedly feeble Wormer remains in custody. Her inquiry takes on great urgency when a copycat killer starts gruesomely butchering Bork’s old friends, using Wormer’s old scalping M.O.

Fans of the original will be happy to see Bornedal got the old gang back together again—at least the characters who are still living, including Bork’s somewhat sleazy pal, Jens Arnkiel. The original
Nightwatch was a breakout film for both the director and lead actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, so it makes sense Bornedal’s screenplay explores the notion of legacy. Instead of just bringing back the old-timers for fan-mollifying cameos, Demons are Forever digs deeply into the long-term psychological distress experienced by the survivors and how it shaped their offspring—including Wormer’s (just who that might be would be telling, but it is easy to guess).

Weirdly, Coster-Waldau (who is still the film’s biggest star) spends a good deal of the film in a state of emotional vacancy. However, Fanny Leander Bornedal brings a lot of sensitivity as Emma. Unfortunately, her Gen Z are an annoying and often foolishly behaving lot. Casper Kjaer Jensen is enormously creepy as the manipulated copycat and Paprika Steen is almost perversely hardboiled as Inspector Kramer.

Demons are Forever
is smarter than the average horror sequel. It acknowledges and makes good use of the time elapsed since the previous film. A lot of the action moves from the morgue to the mental hospital, but the vibe is similar. Honestly, you do not want to end up either place. The cold, concrete brutalist building nicely suits Bornedal’s Nordic Noir style. Highly recommended, Nightwatch: Demons are Forever starts streaming Friday (5/17) on Shudder.