Directed by #NoraUnkel
Written by #NoraUnkel
What does it actually mean to lose yourself in a book? In the case of A Nightmare Wakes it actually means to lose everything. This film is very loosely based on the real life story of Mary Shelley (Wilton Regan) as she writes her masterpiece; Frankenstein. The film focuses on the part of Shelley’s life where she and her soon to be husband, Percy Shelley (Yao Gioiello), visit Lord Byron (Bowgen). He challenges them to write the scariest story that they can.
A Nightmare Wakes is not afraid to hold back in its bold re-imagining of this story and it should be made aware this is not for the faint hearted. It is not a true ‘horror’; it does not really succeed in building suspense or make us ‘fear’ anything. Rather, it makes the viewer extremely uncomfortable with its brutal and bleak scenes of rape and miscarriage. The film won’t hold your hand through these, we are just forced to watch and feel the characters’ emotions.
One actor who really sells these emotional scenes and really pulls you into the story is Alix Wilton Regan. She gives an incredible performance as Mary. We can feel ourselves going mad with her as she becomes a reflection of the hellish character she creates. However, one actor who doesn't deliver as well is Giullian Yao Gioiello. Don’t get me wrong, he does a fine job, I just believe he was slightly miscast and doesn't really deliver the presence needed to be lover and enemy of Mary Shelley.
The writer and director Nora Unkel does a good job on both fronts. The sound design and muted colours serve the story well. The film opens very strongly and we are treated to some great tension right from the very first seconds. It manages to keep up the tension for most of the beginning but it does unfortunately lose itself in the middle. Unfortunately, all the horror involved is very clichéd with the usual blood coming out of the wall and the quick cuts to something horrific; you won’t find anything new here, but at least it doesn't rely on any cheap jump scares. The film does pick back up again towards the end and delivers a very satisfying ending.
The idea of the Frankenstein novel being a product of Mary Shelley’s environment is very interesting, the film delivers this message very well. It’s a real treat to see Mary slowly piece together what would become the final version of the book as she reads the lines out loud. Her words reflect her emotions; out of tragedy and grief comes incredible art and horror.