There are two schools of thought when making a directorial debut, either go with gusto, or play it relatively safe, of course it deals with the budgets, crew and content, hence no clear cut rules layout before the aspiring filmmaker. Herein is Clive Tonge, making usage of the nightmares in sleep as the main subject while a dream demon named Mara, however he focuses the film first as a crime drama and then sprinkling in elements of a thriller before entering the realm of horror. Tonge, equally receives some writing credit for the film in the aspect of the story, while Jonathan Frank penned the screenplay, which actually comes from Scandinavian folklore (per the films Trivia section), but extending to the Swedish term ’mardrom’ when a nightmare creature takes the form of a woman and terrorizes the victim to death, not quite a succubus. Sometimes a feature languishes in post-production hell, not the case for Tonge, who achieved distribution success with Saban Films., for a movie hitting the DVD/ VOD markets, but quite likely appearing on late night television cable networks too.

Recently filmmakers have been exploring some tried and tested arenas in horror, such as sleep, night terrors, and nightmares, which was made famous thanks to the craft work of Wes Craven and the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, but extending to most recently Sleep No More (2018). Dreams always been an interesting realm to investigate in both horror and thrillers, fragments of realities turned into enticing moments or plaguing the victim.

After suffering through traumas in her childhood, Dr. Kate Fuller (Olga Kurylenko) embarks on the journey to becoming a criminal psychologist to help others unfortunate to encounter horrible events. Her first case, involves Helena (Rosie Fellner), a well-off housewife accused of killing her husband, which left her in a catatonic state and the police seek knowledge that she’s either crazy or faking it. Kate addresses a sobbing Sophie (Mackenzie Imsand), the accused’s daughter, while trying to breakthrough a mental wall with Helena, trying to understand the crime. Clearly Olga presents her character in a timid manner, after all a new position, and yet striving to maintain professionalism when dealing the horrific brutal details, walking a careful line, with the law enforcement and consoling motherly instincts. Helene is taken into custody by Detective Mike McCarthy (Lance E. Nichols (Shark Lake [2015])) and placed in the hospital ward in the jail, while Sophie is placed with supposedly child-services. Some likely believe the case is over, move onto the next one, however, Kate investigates deeper on her own, using notes found in the house, and eventually to Mara (Javier Botet, who has a well-documented list of horror credits including Slender Man [2018] and The Horror Network Vol. 1 [2015]), narrowing the connection to a group of insomniacs suffering and a red circle in one of their eyes. Soon enough one of the group members stands-out, Dougie (Craig Conway (Dog Soldiers [2002]) ranting the nightmarish creature. Kate, begins to dream about Mara, finds herself marked, while discovering Helena’s weird security footage where she does a contortionist positioning commonly found in possession flicks, learning of the 4-step killing method of Mara.

Sadly, the film lacks major scare factors, the production shows errors in presentation of the material in a more compelling manner, it focuses attention in a crime drama, which is fine, however, incorporating of a scary monster must either do more scaring or bloodshed. The film stumbles in pacing but never enough to affect the overall scope of movie, though the actors strive to overcome these hiccups, trying to generate their own fear in the necessary scenes. It’s not all negative, Tonge works to imply and insert some chilly moments, however feels if on a small scale rather than grandiose, as if for smaller movie perhaps television fright scenario.

Often in the horror genre, one doesn’t need to show the monster, and uses other techniques to present chilly horrors, with the music, cinematography and actors all creating lasting terrors for the audience, sadly none of that occurs with this film, not for a lack of trying, the energy is often misplaced. Tonge implements the slow-burn style at the start of the film, but struggles to the full production up to speed, though the folklore surrounding Mara, makes for an interesting one-time viewing, before bedtime.

IMDb Rating: 5.1/10

Baron’s Rating: 4.5/10