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.

Der Nachtmahr

The pounding industrial score plays a prominent role as diegetic and non-diegetic sounds heal to disorientate, mirroring the protagonist’s fractured mind-set. Organ music also twists well into the electro while a strobe/epilepsy warning and a “must be played at maximum volume” announcement illustrates how encumbered with banging tunes it is. A follow-up jape about its warning, highlights the hollow, insensitive, post-ironic attitude that permeates our pop-culture but, bearing that in mind, despite the opulent surface, Der Nachtmahr’s story is frail with airy, forgettable characters and a creature that looks like the pickled foetus of a malformed womble cross-bred with a handicapped Yoda.

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.

Der Nachtmahr 3

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.

Der Nachtmahr
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Daniel Goodwin
Daniel Goodwin is a prevalent film writer for multiple websites including HeyUGuys, Scream Horror Magazine, Little White Lies, i-D and Dazed. After studying Film, Media and Cultural Studies at university and Creative Writing at the London School of Journalism, Daniel went on to work in TV production for Hat Trick Productions, So Television and The London Studios. He has also worked at the Home Office, in the private office of Hilary Benn MP and the Coroner's and Burials Department, as well as on the Movies on Pay TV market investigation for the Competition Commission.
der-nachtmahr-reviewMac and Me directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, and it's exactly as good as that sounds.