By midlandsmovies, Feb 6 2020 03:58PM
Daniel Isn't Real (2020) Dir. Adam Egypt Mortimer
Based on In This Way I Was Saved by Brian DeLeeuw, Daniel Isn’t Real is a new horror-thriller starring Miles Robbins (Blockers) as a young man with some serious psychological issues. After witnessing a shooting, a young shy boy called Luke meets Daniel whose outward confidence ends up connecting the two boys as friends. However, Daniel cannot be seen by Luke’s mother and after his imaginary friend tricks Luke into almost poisoning her, Luke metaphorically locks Daniel in an old dollhouse.
Years later, a teenage Luke (now played by Robbins) has become a worried student who unlocks the dollhouse after travelling home one day, and now an older Daniel (played by Arnie’s son Patrick Schwarzenegger) reappears to him.
An interesting idea, the film could be the worst of b-movie horrors but takes its set-up and characters mostly seriously. As Daniel begins to help out Luke overcome personal demons and help others, the figment of his imagination is soon involved in assaults and violence and becomes a real demon of his own.
The film cleverly uses Luke’s photography hobby as a metaphor for image and self-projection and his old camera along with other students’ artwork focuses the film on symbolic duplicates, replication and the internal and external aesthetics of persona.
As Luke’s mother struggles with her own mental health issues, the film does swerve from its analysis of schizophrenia and move into more body-horror and the supernatural. This is no bad thing though and through sex, drugs and self-medication, the film attempts to tackle more heady themes than you’ll see in an Insidious or Annabelle.
Reminiscent of Austrian movie Goodnight Mommy (2014) and a bit of Fight Club (1999), the film does have somewhat of a reveal later on but it’s a pleasant surprise to have the conceit explained early on to avoid a clichéd denouement.
From the opening sequence to a body possession, there are also flashes of some brilliantly constructed and visually arresting shots yet the film doesn’t quite get away from its less-than-original premise. And narratively I felt you could mostly see where it is going beat-by-beat.
However, for the first horror of 2020 I’ve seen it has set the standard of mixing genre tropes with a few new ideas to provide a satisfying albeit slightly inconsequential tale of terror.