We follow Tina, a teenage girl, to a late-night pool party. Techno pounds, lights flash, kids show each other stuff on their phones. She takes pills, she dances, she freaks out whilst, mid urination, she seems to see something moving in the bushes. She gets killed, wakes up from a dream.
Back home, Tina tries to maintain her school and social life, avoiding the ever-present threat of social embarrassment for herself and her fairly well-to-do parents. But, problematically, she starts to hear noises at night. She encounters something in the kitchen. The house is being visited, it seems, by a little green thing that nobody else sees or hears, a thing with a strange connection to her. What to do? Her therapist suggests talking to it, making contact. Her parents would rather she not mention it, especially when the boss comes round for dinner, and she risks social-pariah status if she brings this up with her shallow, bitchy, circle of party-chasing friends. Is she crazy? Dreaming? Dying? Is it the drugs?
A thoroughly discombobulating German oddity, Der Nachtmahr warns us before we start about the strobing, isochronic tones and binaural noises it contains, before advising us to play the film loud. There is, to be fair, a certain amount of Gaspar Noé-style audio-visual overkill in certain sequences, but Akiz’s film ends up far removed from Noé’s flip nihilism. It’s not, in the main, an easy watch, played mainly in keys of discomfort, from creepy to awkward to embarrassing, in an appropriately teenage fashion, but ultimately it delivers a positive take-home message about accepting yourself, and owning your own weirdness. Carolyn Genzkow is great as Tina, vulnerable, raw (and always underdressed) and the uh… thing has a rubbery, lo-fi charm. Der Nachtmahr plays an amusing game of parallels with E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and where Spielberg’s film gave us a magical creature capable of performing miracles, here we have a lumpen, physical creature with a pendulous ball bag and sloppy table manners. I don’t know what it is, but I think anybody who has survived adolescence would recognize it.
Great throbby synth soundtrack. And Kim Gordon turns up as an English lit teacher dissecting a Blake poem, which is pretty damn cool. Hazy and hormonal and well worth a look.
Play it loud.
Watch the trailer: