Synopsis: When Tina passes out at a party one night, she assumes it was just a side effect of her wild lifestyle; that is, until a mysterious creature begins haunting both her dreams and her waking hours. Tina struggles to make those around her see the thing, but to no avail, and as she becomes ever more unsettled and manic, her parents are forced to get her psychiatric help. But as the little beastie seems to lurk around every corner, she is forced to overcome her fears and forge a bond with the monster.
Release Date: October 2, 2015 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Drama, Mystery
According to Google Translate, the German phrase Der Nachtmahr means “The Nightmare.” Der Nachtmahr is not, however, to be confused with The Nightmare, the documentary about sleep paralysis and night terrors by Room 237 director Rodney Ascher. And, after seeing it, there’s no way that the two movies could be confused with each other.
Der Nachtmahr is about a young woman named Tina Peterson (Carolyn Genzkow from “Doktor Martin”) who does typical seventeen-year-old girl things; she goes to raves, drinks and does drugs, and sleeps all day. One night, Tina has a nightmare, and wakes up to find a little monster in her parents’ home. Of course, no one else believes that the monster exists, and Tina’s parents think that she is crazy. Tina ends up befriending the monster, and the pair forms a strange symbiotic relationship.
It may go without saying that Der Nachtmahr is a weird movie, but here it is anyway – Der Nachtmahr is a weird movie. It’s the brainchild of a German visual artist named Akiz (the artsy pseudonym of Achim Bornhak), who wrote, directed, produced, and edited the film. On the one hand, it’s like a raucous party movie along the lines of Spring Breakers or Project X, and on the other hand it’s an innocent sci-fi monster movie in the same vein as E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial or Eraserhead. Like I said, Der Nachtmahr is a weird movie.
At the center of Der Nachtmahr is the relationship between Tina and the creature. Tina is the more sympathetic character, but the creature itself, designed by (yep, you guessed it) Akiz, looks like a slimy, rubbery cross between Yoda and the Basket Case monster, and he really steals the show; every scene with the little guy in it is way better than any scene without him. Interestingly enough, there is some confusion as to whether or not the creature is even real, both with the characters in the film and the viewers in the audience. It’s entirely possible that Tina’s little buddy may be completely in her head and symbolic of her hard-partying ways, and even the end of the movie doesn’t really give any concrete answers. Ambiguity. Another sign of a weird movie.
So, Der Nachtmahr is not going to appeal to everyone. Some people will get it, and others won’t, and both camps will be completely correct in their opinions. Basically, Der Nachtmahr is a quirky coming-of-age movie full of slick music montages and end-of-the-world partying – and a monster. The only thing it’s missing is a respected rock musician in a walk-on role. Oh, wait – there’s Sonic Youth bassist Kim Gordon as Tina’s English teacher, being cool and discussing the poetry of William Blake. Okay, Der Nachtmahr really does have everything that a hip indie movie should have. And a monster. So track it down and check it out.
Der Nachtmahr begins with a series of title cards that warn of “Extreme Strobing” and “Isochronic and Binaural frequencies,” and advising that the movie should be “Played LOUDLY!!”, so the audience knows exactly that they’re in for from the get-go. The music was composed by Christoph Blaser and Steffen Kahles (the duo who scored Banklady and Half Brothers), with additional compositions by (of course) Akiz, and the sound design was done by Manfred Mvié Bauche (Chuckoo and the Donkey). This is worth noting in the same sentence because, while much of the film is drenched and soaked in industrial and techno music, the musical numbers mesh into the sound design seamlessly so that it becomes one aurally assaultive wall of noise, disorienting and unsettling the unsuspecting viewer. There are times when the thick sound collage lets up and the audience is given long stretches of silence or muffled sound, putting them right into Tina’s warped head, only for the cacophony to return a few minutes later for some more eardrum punishing. Some may find the sonic mosaic of Der Nachtmahr annoying, but that’s actually the point; the viewer is not supposed to be comfortable (hence the opening warnings), and the earsplitting montage adds a lot to the entire experience of the film.
One would think that a movie called Der Nachtmahr, basically meaning “The Nightmare” in one of the most horrifying languages on Earth, would be scary, but it’s really not. There are a handful of scares that are set up purely by the soundscape, but even those are tame. The monster is more cute than ferocious, so there’s not a lot to be afraid of there. The scariest parts of Der Nachtmahr are the drugged out party scenes, and even those are more frightening in a dystopian, decline of civilization kind of way than in an actual horrifying way. Der Nachtmahr is still worth seeing, it just won’t inspire any “nachtmahrs” amongst its viewers.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Akiz
- Producer(s): AkizAmir HamzSimon RühlemannChristian Springer
- Screenwriter(s): Akiz
- Cast: Carolyn Genzkow (Tina)Sina Tkotsh (Barbara)Wilson Gonzalez Ochsenknecht (Adam) Arnd Klawitter (Tinas Vater)Julika Jenkins (Tinas Mutter)Aram Arami (Rashid)Michael Epp (Polizist Schonrath)Lynn Femme (Monika)Kim Gordon (Julia)Til Schindler (Tom)
- Editor(s): Akiz
- Cinematographer: Clemens Baumeister
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer: Laura Büchel
- Casting Director(s): Silke KochKaren Wendland
- Music Score: Christoph Blaser
- Music Performed By: Steffen Kahles
- Country Of Origin: Germany