Waking Nightmare is a horror flick that is meta to the extreme. From the directorial duo Steve Craig and Brian Farmer, this movie leaves the viewer questioning the validity and intention of what we’re seeing in nearly every scene. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
When college student Jordan (Shelley Regner) returns home after the suicide of her best friend, her somnambulism takes a turn for the worse… Meaning, it turns deadly. Of course, Jordan’s subconsciously murderous ways are unsettling to watch. That being said, the viewer is witness to many more disturbing sequences in this movie.
In life, our dreams and nightmares often go sideways. There is typically no clear reason why our subconscious generates the discombobulated images it does while we sleep.
The same can be said for Waking Nightmare. The filmmakers’ intent may have been to show Jordan’s decent into mental instability on account of her grief. However, there’s a frequent mashup of disjointed imagery–during even tame moments such as when Jordan’s watching TV. This storytelling device mimics the inexplicable trajectory our dreams and nightmares likewise take us on.
These sequences, though cause for a little head-scratching in confusion, are nevertheless mesmerizing to watch. Much more so than the extended scenes with Jordan’s friends. Unfortunately, their inclusion doesn’t ultimately add much significance to her journey or that of her family.
Speaking of family, Waking Nightmare offers fans of ‘80s cinema several opportunities to rejoice in the addition of Diane Franklin and Jamison Newlander as Jordan’s concerned parents. Known for their memorable turns in Better Off Dead… and The Lost Boys, respectively, they are part of the film’s fun though somewhat anticipated turn of events.
And let’s not forget David Naughton! Known for his iconic turn as David Kessler in An American Werewolf in London, he brings his considerable horror cachet to the film. As Jordan’s doctor, he attempts to temper her sleepwalking episodes through what else? Sleeping pills.
Though the film’s reveal is not necessarily a surprise, it’s nevertheless satisfying to watch. So much so that this critic would have liked to have more of the film devoted to it. The flick comes in at a tight 72 minutes, so certainly there was room for Craig and Farmer to develop what was the most intriguing plot line of the entire movie.
As it currently stands, though, Waking Nightmare is a fascinating case study on intertwining classical horror storytelling with experimental cinematic elements that leads to an uneven albeit interesting narrative.
Waking Nightmare will be released to VOD on August 18, 2023 from Terror Films.
Wicked Rating: 6.5/10