you that have been reading these Crankyisms for a while know that I really
could care less about horror/scary genre flicks. Once in a while, I'll
drag myself into one of 'em, but that's few and far between. Y'all know
what I do. I send Trent Haaga in to do the dirty work. He loves this stuff
. . .
Official Sidekick, it's my sworn duty to fill in when he gets sick.
It ain't easy, folks, but somebody's gotta do it!
Dimension Films thriller, Nightwatch, is actually an English-language
remake of one of the most successful Danish films of all time - Nattevagten.
When I say "remake" I mean it - both versions were written
and directed by the same guy.
Bells (Ewan McGregor doing a pretty authentic-sounding American
accent) is a young law student who gets a job as a night watchman in
a morgue. What seems like the perfect opportunity - getting paid to
sit on your ass and read books all night - quickly becomes a living
nightmare when a serial killer begins to terrorize the city. As if having
to be around the dead bodies of a serial killer's victims isn't enough,
someone is slowly putting the pieces together to frame young
Martin for the murders. Is it his slightly loopy and jaded buddy James
(Josh "I look like Craig Scheffer's brother" Brolin)?
The philosophical detective investigating the murders (Nick Nolte)?
The prescription drug-swilling Doctor (Brad Dourif, who most
resembles a certified lunatic)? Or maybe even Martin's quiet fiancee
Katherine (Patricia Arquette)? To give away any more would ruin
the mystery and tension that makes Nightwatch ten times more
effective than your average slasher flick.
is, first and foremost, an exercise of style and mood. From the squirm-inducing
opening murder to the extended climax, every frame drips with subtle
menace. I was very much reminded of an Italian "giallo" thriller
by the likes of Dario Argento or Mario Bava (if you're at all familiar
with these film makers, you'll know that this is high praise indeed).
The city morgue is a creepy enough location already. It becomes a place
of palpable, unrelenting dread under Bornedal's sure hand.
most Dimension product, Nightwatch doesn't temper the horror
with witty one-liners or audience-directed winks and nods. This is an
intense little whodunnit that takes no prisoners. While the bodycount
and blood quotient of Nightwatch is a mere fraction of what either
Scream film had, it's a case of quality vs. quantity. The two
onscreen murders are more unsettling than disgusting. The viewer isn't
"shocked" into being scared as much as they are slowly dragged
into a state of uncomfortable fear. Also to director Ornedal's
credit, the tension mounts, rather than decreases, when the audience
learns the killer's identity a full thirty minutes before the end of
the film! The extended climax is very well-done, leaving serious doubts
as to the final outcome (and making armpits sweat - my t-shirt needed
to be wrung out at the end of this one).
get me wrong. Nightwatch didn't change my life or anything. Like
the "giallo" films that it seems to reference, Nightwatch
does occasionally sacrifice narrative logic and/or character development
in order to provide the chills. But this film isn't about character
and plot. It's about being scary. A lot of the older reviewers that
I screened Nightwatch with seemed too not like it, citing that
it was "too disturbing". This is the exact reason that I enjoyed
Nightwatch. It fulfills its primary objective - to be disturbing
and creepy - with skill and finesse. Hey, I'm a sucker for a decent,
serious-minded horror flick. If being scared isn't your bag, you might
want to avoid it
a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able
to set his own price for Nightwatch, he would have paid . . .
Had I paid
to see Nightwatch, I would have been wholly satisfied. And in
my world, there aren't any $8.00 movies. So if you prefer your scares
straight up with no comedic chaser, Nightwatch is the flick you've
been waiting for.