A devilicious spookfest awaits a 16-year-old Berlin high-schooler in Der Nachtmahr (The Nightmare). It starts out innocently enough: Tina’s (Carolyn Genzkow) friends take a picture of her during one of their haze-and-techno-fueled nightly escapades and, using a silly app, create a video of her face morphing into that of an aborted foetus. People find this hilarious, except the playful gag may have accidentally summoned something that threatens the young girl’s grip on her own identity – and sanity.
Writer/director Akiz delves into the world of monsters and urban legends with gleeful gusto, sending the audience on a psychedelic trip accompanied by a mysterious creature. Beneath its campy surface, however, the film’s pointed symbolism actually illustrates with poignancy the anxieties of alienated youth today – betrayed by parents, rejected by peers, pressured by a collective vanity and lost amidst a void of purpose. Although the script itself isn’t necessarily watertight or free of cheap plot devices, the kinetic cinematography, jagged editing and raging soundtrack give the picture a wild edge dripping with 21st-century angst that communicates on a wholly subliminal level. Proving horror flicks get no respect as a rule, this stylish, absorbing fever dream was unceremoniously passed over by the German Film Awards. Which reflects rather poorly on the Academy voters themselves, because it’s in these types of con dent, provocative anomalies that we see a future for the ever-more- conformist German cinema at all.
Der Nachtmahr | Directed by D: Akiz (Germany 2015) with Carolyn Genzkow, Wilson Gonzalez Ochsenknecht. Starts May 26.