Wednesday, February 3, 2021

A Nightmare Wakes Review: A Diverse and Period Appropriate Creation of a Monster

Alix Wilton Regan	...	Mary Shelley Giullian Yao Gioiello	Giullian Yao Gioiello	...	Percy Shelley Philippe Bowgen	Philippe Bowgen	...	Lord Byron Claire Glassford	Claire Glassford	...	Claire Clairmont Lee Garrett	Lee Garrett	...	Dr. John Polidori Shannon Spangler	Shannon Spangler	...	Harriet Shelley Nick Freeland	Nick Freeland	...	Party Goer (as Nicholas Freeland Clark)

Release date: February 4, 2021
Running time: 91 minutes
Starring: Alix Wilton Regan, Giullian Yao Gioiello, Philippe Bowgen  
Written and Directed By: Nora Unkel

While composing her famous novel Frankenstein, Mary Shelley (Alix Wilton Regan, The Wife) descends into an opium-fueled fever dream while carrying on a torrid love affair with Percy Shelley (Giullian Yao Gioiello, Scream: The TV Series, Marvel’s Iron Fist). As she writes, the characters of her novel come to life and begin to plague the relationships with those closest to her as the shadow of her monster threatens to overcome her.  Shot with a majority female production crew, the sweeping psychological thriller is steeped in accurate period details but told with a modern perspective. While the filmmakers took great pains to be as historically accurate as possible in the movie’s lighting and design, they chose to cast racially diverse actors.

Produced by  Dave Conlon	...	executive producer John Connor	...	executive producer DJ Dodd	...	executive producer Frédéric Fiore	...	producer Bruce Fleming	...	executive producer Robert Menzies	...	producer (p.g.a.) Paul Moyer	...	executive producer Gabriel Rosenstein	...	producer (p.g.a.) Devin Shepherd	...	producer (p.g.a.) Eric Tavitian	...	producer Dan Wong	...	executive producer       Directed by  Nora Unkel	Writing Credits (in alphabetical order)   Nora Unkel
A Nightmare Wakes will transport you into Victorian England with its perfect setting.  Everything feels time appropriate, from the architecture, to the lighting, to the clothing.  The filmmakers went to great lengths to make sure that the setting was recreated perfectly.  And the casting was likewise fantastic with a diverse cast that nailed each of the characters in this film.  The commitment to diversity was a nice touch and definitely shows that you can use a diverse cast even when it might not be historically accurate to tell a great story.  And on top of the setting, the music of A Nightmare Wakes is wonderful.  It has whimsical tunes when needed and more sinister, grandiose music when the subject matter becomes darker.  It sticks with a classical score to fit the time period, but it really helps to set the mood of the film.

And the story of A Nightmare Wakes starts off simple and whimsical but slowly descends into madness along with the protagonist.  As the movie progresses, the film gets darker to fit both Shelley's novel and the subject matter of the film.  It deals with her personal tragedy and how this inspired her famous novel.  The aspects of her tragedy were well done and highlighted some of the terrible conditions that she lived in.  And it also shows how these tragedies related to her work, and how her mind reconciled what was happening and what she was writing.

However, although the film has a lot going for it, one thing that I wish is that it tied a little closer to Mary Shelley's life.  As it stands, I can't tell if this was a reimagining of her life and creative process or a work of complete fiction.  The film does not give the viewer hints of where the boundaries between the truth and the dramatization lie.  There is no post movie information about Shelley nor does the film say it is based on true events.  So although it is an imaginative and well done reimagining, it seems like this is a creative dramatization of Shelley's life.  And another aspect that was a blessing and a curse for this film is that a lot of it dealt with scenes that were happening as Shelley descended into madness, making deciphering what was real and in her head tough to do.  Sometimes events would happen that seemed to be in the real world only to find out that they were in Shelley's mind, and major events occurred that left this ambiguous.  Additionally, the ending of the film feels rushed, like there should have been about 10 more minutes before the final scene.  So although this film succeeds in creating an imaginative world for Shelley to occupy, the lack of clarity over where the real and imaginary end hurts the overall film.  Additionally, although the film does go into Shelley's creative process, it is tough to see how the characters developed.  They sort of appear here and there, but I wish more had been associated with them in the film itself.

A Nightmare Wakes creates a diverse and period appropriate reimagining of the events of Mary Shelley's life that gave life to her classic novel. 

Rent it.

Horror Frankenstein Monster Dementia madness dracula vampire byron lord byron victor death dead
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A Nightmare Wakes is available to stream on Shudder starting February 4, 2021. 

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