FrightFest 2017: Nightworld (2017)

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Nightworld is disappointing, in as far as it feels like it wants – and to a point promises – to be more than it is. This horror / mystery directed by Chilean filmmaker Patricio Valladares has on paper (and screen) so much potential, but in the end simply fails to live up to expectations.

Brett (Jason London), a troubled and restless ex-cop from L.A., is hired by a shadowy corporation to look after an empty, period apartment block, which they own in the quiet suburbs of the Bulgarian city of Sofia. However there is something odd about the building’s basement, and in particular an area of which Brett has been told he must not go near. As time progresses Brett begins – too late – to realise that his new employers may not have been being completely open with him about the truth behind the building and what it’s housing in its murky depths.

As said the film has potentially so much in its favour – both visually and in content – that its success should have been a dead cert. Featuring King of Horror Robert Englund – as a mysterious and enigmatic corporation employee called Jacob – and prolific American actor Jason London as the film’s bewildered protagonist Brett – the cast (bolstered by mainly Eastern European actors) handle the given material with strong and competent performances. Visually stunning, the film was shot in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia – popular with filmmakers because of its beautiful, period locations as well as it being (lets be honest) a cheap place to produce films. Capturing a marvellously moody and autumnal air, the film is also imbued with an otherworldliness which simply heightens the sense of the surreal and mysterious at the centre of its story.

Unfortunately however – despite a scenario seemingly full of possibilities – the film, on closer inspection, in fact lacks any real originality. The references and homages to past genre classics are in the end so numerous and (largely) unsubtle, that much of its initial promise is soon overwhelmed by the sense that you’ve seen it all before: pivotal scenes from Suspiria (1977), The Beyond (1981), Men in Black (1997) and The X-Files TV series are all alluded to in some form or another. Lovecraft influences – in both themes and visual appearance – are also obvious and, whilst there is nothing wrong per se with such referential tones, the heavy way in which they are approached here deadens much of their beauty.

In the end the film, despite its failings, just about holds holds your interest due to its appearance. Ultimately though the viewer is left feeling let down, by something which could, and should, have been so much better.

 

Director: Patricio Valladares
Writers: Loris Curci (story), Dimitar Hristov (scripted),
Barry Keating & Milan Konjevic (screenplay)
Stars: Jason London, Robert Englund, Gianni Capaldi,
Lorina Kamburova, Dian, Lyubenova, Atanas Srebrev
Runtime: 92 mins
Country: USA

Rating: ★★½☆☆

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