Not Rated | 1h 30min | Drama, Thriller | 20 Oct 2020 (Brazil) | Movie
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 48% Rotten (Critics), 56% Rotten (Audience)
Director: Nora Unkel
Writers: Nora Unkel
Stars: Alix Wilton Regan, Giullian Yao Gioiello, Claire Glassford
IMDb summary: An adaptation of the novel “Frankenstein,” as told through the life of Mary Shelley. As she creates her masterpiece, she gives birth to a monster.
PLEASE BE AWARE BEFORE YOU READ ON WE ARE NOT SPOILER-FREE. THANK YOU.
A NIGHTMARE WAKES REVIEW
A Nightmare Wakes is an adaptation of Mary Shelley’s foray as a writer into the darkness of gothic fiction, which we now know as “Frankenstein”. The film’s beginning shows Mary (Regan) and Percy Shelley (Gioiello) as a loving couple enjoying time with their friends in Geneva, namely Lord Byron (Bowgen), Mary’s half-sister Claire Clairmont (Claire Glassford) and Byron’s friend John Polidori (Lee Garrett). During one of Byron’s many late nights spent drinking in front of a fireplace, Byron puts a challenge to the group to come up with a “scary ghost story”.
A Nightmare Wakes depicts several of Mary’s family members and friends as untrustworthy people who should be supportive and respectful of Mary but turn on her at one point or another. We see Mary throw herself into her writing shortly after she experiences a traumatic event. From this point on, the scenes seem purposefully scattered and almost disjointed as Mary becomes more and more obsessed with the characters she is creating in her head. Mary seems to lose her grip on reality completely, believing that a man that looks and sounds exactly like Percy Shelley named “Victor” is her lover.
The scenes begin to weave in and out of each other as Mary succumbs to depression and can only be described as a type of psychosis. Most of the scenes from this point onward are taken from Mary’s perspective. Some seem almost dream-like. It’s difficult to tell whether any of it is actually happening. The film’s pacing and tension build gradually as the scenes slowly become more intense and erratic. And in turn, mirror Mary Shelley’s harrowing decline into madness.
This particular rendition of Shelley is much easier to believe for a woman marred by personal tragedy. And while the backdrops used are extremely picturesque, they directly conflict with Mary’s reality and state of mind. Regan does a fantastic job of bringing Mary’s darkness to the surface while also showing her vulnerabilities as both a writer and a woman scorned. Mary and Percy Shelley’s tortured relationship creates the perfect foundation for Mary’s obsession to take hold. In many ways, this feeds her creativity. It makes one wonder what Mary’s story might have been like had she not experienced the suffering that Percy exposed her to through his many infidelities.
It’s interesting to note that A Nightmare Wakes is classified as a thriller and not a horror which is an important distinction. This film relies heavily on psychological “fear” more than scares, and it delivers on every level. As an adaptation, this film offers one of the darkest re-tellings of this story to date, daring to push boundaries that not everyone will fully appreciate. However, what Unkel has done with this story is impressive and is an artistic representation of facts blending into myth seamlessly.
Here’s the A Nightmare Wakes trailer via YouTube