Daniel Isnít Real - Daniel Isnít Real [Arrow Video - 2020]Daniel Isnít Real is a fairly inventive, though often terminal bleak take on the whole secret friend thing. Think a darker & more troubled Donnie Darko, blended with elements of Jacobs Ladder, and grim Clive Barker like fantasy- and youíll have an idea of what we have here. On Arrow Video this is a recently released Blu Ray of the film- with the companyís usual good selection of extras.
Daniel Isnít Real is a 2019 US production- it's the second full-length feature from Adam Egypt Mortimer who co-wrote & directed the film. Before this his first feature was Some Kind Of Monster- a 2015 horror film that followed the vengeful spirit of a bullied student, which got good press at the time of release. On from the start of Daniel Isnít Real itís clear the director he has both an eye for macabrely fantastic & grimly troubling- and through-out the film he moves between this two axis.
The film focuses in on Luke(Mile Robbins)- when we first meet him heís an awkward & inward child who seemingly imagines up Daniel- the pair do everything together, but one day Daniel tells Luke to put drugs in his mothers drink- she nearly dies, then out of desperation she insists that Daniel must be banished, so Luke puts him in a grand playhouse in their family home. Fast forward some years & Luke is now a college freshman- finding it difficult to cope, he goes to see his shrink who suggests he tries & contacts with his past issues & his imaginary friendÖhe does so and things take a very dark, at times tripped-out, and later bloody turn. Added into mix we get Lukeís disturbed & suicidal mother, and an unpleasant & obnoxious female art student, who becomes a sort of love interest.
The whole thing is certainly filmed and executed well- with the mix of grim & troubling reality/ mental health issues, and darkly twisted fantasy working well. The cast is largely good- Mile Robbins is believable as the troubled teen, as is Patrick Schwarzenegger( yep Arnolds Son) as the devil-may-care/ sociopath Daniel. The main issue/ failing of the film is that none of the characters are in any way likable or endearing, so as a result one is never routing for or bothered what happens to them- yes it looks good, and the balance of real-life grimness & dark fantasy is done in a heady & at times very grimly trippy manner- but you need to care/ feel something, and sadly I didnít so as result the whole thing felt rather a chore to get through. Thereís no doubt Mortimer is a talent, and Iíll be curious to see what he produces in the future- he just needs to add in more heart/, and glimmers of hope- then I think I can see him going places. Daniel Isnít Real is certainly one of the more original/ distinctive modern horror pictures Iíve seen, and I wanted to like it more- it just lacks likable humanity, which any film needs to succeed.
On the extras side, we get a commentary track from director/ co-writer Adam Egypt Mortimer- this is an intelligent, in-depth & far reaching track with Mortimer talking about filming styles, shot set-ups, the actors & his influence, one of the main been Jacobs Ladder. Itís one of the better director tracks Iíve heard, and if you enjoyed the film Iím sure you get a lot from it.
Next, we get Beyond the Garden of Earthly Delight-this is an eighteen-minute visual essay by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas- this is fairly interesting, though it is more towards the scholarly side of things. We get a twenty-minute on film interview with the writer/ director. Deleted scenes, alternate ending, & trailers.
In finishing I certainly appreciate & admire Adam Egypt Mortimer push with Daniel Isnít Real to create something a little different & darkly psychedelic with-in modern horror genre- but Iím afraid for me it was just too grim, with characters I cared little or nothing for. Never the less hats off to Arrow for putting this out, and doing there usual great job with extras/ itís presentation.Roger Batty