01st Feb2021

‘A Nightmare Wakes’ Review (Shudder)

by Alain Elliott

Stars: Alix Wilton Regan, Giullian Yao Gioiello, Philippe Bowgen, Lee Garrett, Claire Glassford, Shannon Spangler, Nick Freeland | Written and Directed by Nora Unkel

To my knowledge, despite numerous films based on the story of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, their hadn’t been many about Shelley’s own life. But in 2017 came the film Mary Shelley, in which Elle Fanning played the author, and now in 2021 A Nightmare Wakes comes to Shudder. This movie covers the true story of the part of her life where she had an affair with a married man and fell pregnant with his child, all while trying to write the famous novel Frankenstein.

It’s no surprise at all that A Nightmare Wakes is a gothic period drama that occasionally leans towards the horror side of things. This isn’t full of gore or jump scares, there’s more an underlying sense of unease which comes from Shelley’s possible mental issues as she struggles with her life and everything that is going on in it. Like her mind, the movie fleets between ‘real life’ and the many dreams/nightmares that she is having, unsure which is which.

For me, by far the best part of A Nightmare Wakes is the music. If you listened to it away from the film, not knowing which movie it was from, you would believe it was from the most terrifying of horror films. Because, at times, it has that harshness and horror-centric sound that the scariest genre movies have. It makes many scenes much more frightening than they actually are but also helps those scenes have a little edge to them. Something the film definitely needed. Outside of the horror sounds are some expertly added orchestral sounds that are a fantastic score in their own right. But together with the horror sound, this is a score I want to listen to again after viewing the film.

The style the filmmakers go for is at times very obvious. It’s very gothic-y, very period drama and you’d be mistaken for thinking it was black and white if you didn’t think too hard. The drab and dreary colour palette isn’t quite black and white but it’s close and it does work. There’s nothing upbeat and colourful going on in this story. There are a few times when the cinematography is beautiful though and I would have liked to have seen a bit more of the lake-covered landscapes that play an important part of that story.

The gothic horror style, despite my teenage goth years, is not a sub genre that captures me. I can’t say that their are many films with a similar style and context that I really enjoy and that’s perhaps why A Nightmare Wakes didn’t entertain me a whole lot. There’s clearly a market for it though and gothic horror fans will surely enjoy what’s on offer. But this doesn’t do much to stand out from that crowd and get much of an audience from anyone else.

** 2/5

A Nightmare Wakes screens on Shudder from February 4th 2021.

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