This German electro horror from artist/ director Akiz can be viewed as either a Lovecraft-like musical or subversive sci-fi about the youth of today. Its juxtaposition of styles feels too distinctive to be a product of its time yet the sub-cultural references and soundtrack may make it more synonymous with the modern music scene.
While on a night out with her friends, teenage clubber Tina (Carolyn Genzkow) has a dream of being hit by a car. She returns home to discover an alien-like incubus (that no one else can see) rummaging through her kitchen. The two merge minds and become Cronenberg-like companions but after Tina’s parents refer her to a psychiatrist, the nightmares get worse and the creature becomes a more permanent player in her addled subconscious.
Akiz adopts a docu-style now more synonymous with the iPhone/ upload culture than the faux documentary/ found-footage sub-genre of The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity franchise. While Der Nachtmahr isn’t a found footage fiction and doesn’t pretend to be caught on an iPhone, it’s jumpy style, characters’ age group and sub-cultural references suggest otherwise. The over-abundance of neon partly echoes Schumacher’s Batman catastrophes but a subdued, clinical feel emerges as the drama unfolds.
Questions about the creature’s existence resurface and the dream/ mystery sequences go some way to establishing an effective mood. But fear evaporates once the beast is revealed and Der Nachtmahr morphs into Mac and Me directed by Nicolas Winding Refn or ET goes to Cyberdog via the mind of Ken Russell.
Der Nachtmahr proves as much of a film about clubbing and music as it is a sci-fi/ horror. Despite the incredible creature effects its design is wretched and the lack of a riveting storyline overrides the inimitable visuals and sound. A Clockwork Orange meets Basket Case as written by William Gibson is another way to describe Der Nachtmahr and while the “is it all a dream?” element adds a curious air, the lack of essential depth and latter-half suspense crushes its novel attributes.