3/26/2020

Daniel Isn't Real (Review)

Director: Adam Egypt Mortimer
Writers: Adam Egypt Mortimer, Brian DeLeeuw
Cast: Miles Robbins, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Sasha Lane, Mary Stuart Masterson, Hannah Marks
Year: 2020
Min: 100

As a child, Luke (Griffin Robert Faulkner) hears his parents having a heated argument. He runs out the door and passes by a coffee shop, where someone has gunned down everyone that was in there. He sees a bloody, dead body, laying on the outside of the establishment. Soon, he begins to talk to a boy named Daniel (Nathan Chandler Reid). The thing is only he can seem him, and not anyone else, including his mom (Mary Stuart Masterson). Still, he plays and talks to Daniel a lot.

One day, Daniel tells Luke to poison his mom with her meds, telling him that doing that will give her "superpowers". That doesn't happen, of course, and his mom, who thankfully survives, tells him to "lock-up" Daniel in the dollhouse, that they have. Cut, to the present. Luke (Miles Robbins) is a withdrawn and quiet college student. He goes to visit his mom, who we learn suffers from mental issues. Soon after, he "unlocks" and frees Daniel (Patrick Schwarzenegger). While, mischievous at first, and even helpful in getting him to talk to and date a young artist named Cassie (Sasha Lane), Daniel soon leads him to darker and, eventually, more violent actions. Luke wonders if he has inherited his mom's mental conditions, and whether he can be free of Daniel's influence, before things get worse.

Daniel Isn't Real is a pretty solid effort from director/ co-writer Ada Egypt Mortimer. It's a captivating take on mental illness and schizophrenia. And, while it doesn't really break any new ground, it will hold your interest and is solidly done throughout its duration.

The opening shotgun massacre shocked the shit out of me, as it breaks the tranquility of people enjoying their morning coffee. It's a brutal and fast scene. From there the movie is mostly a slow burn, interested more in character and situation development, rather than action. This fine for the type of story it tells.

There is some excellent acting from all involved, but it is the young Miles Robbins that truly shines. He gives a very strong and layered performance and plays really well against Patrick Schwarzenegger's Daniel. Their scenes together are intensely well done. I was very happy to see Mary Stuart Masterson cast as his mom, as I had a childhood crush on her. She gives a strong and emotional supporting role.

To me, one of the movie's most interesting scenes has Daniel taking over Luke, so that he can cheat on Cassie and fuck hottie Sophie (Hannah Marks). It's also at this point, that he turns violent and really sets the movie's action in motion. The film works well in doing metaphors for mental illness. There are also some haunting moments that really help to get under your skin. The flick's climax is fairly suspenseful and has a very satisfying if not wholly unexpected ending.

Daniel Isn't Real is a mostly engaging psychological horror movie. The pacing is a little on the slow side, but it mostly succeeds in what it sets out to do. The acting is its strongest suit, especially in relation to the performance of Miles Robbins' Luke. There are a couple of really good and strong moments that increase in their frequency as the film moves along. Nothing really new is done, but with a good climax and logical ending, it hits the mark more than it misses. It will start streaming today, March 26, 2020 on Shudder and, as such, is well worth a look.


3 out of 4

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