Daniel Isn't Real Movie Review
Written by R.J. MacReady
Released by Samuel Goldwyn Films | Shudder
Directed by Adam Egypt Mortimer
Written by Brian DeLeeuw (novel) and Adam Egypt Mortimer
2019, 101 Minutes, Not Rated
Released on Decemberth 6th, 2019
Patrick Schwarzenegger as Daniel
Miles Robbins as Luke
Sasha Lane as Cassie
Mary Stuart Masterson as Claire
Hannah Marks as Sophie
Fresh off its successful premiere at the South by Southwest film festival comes this tale of a college student who brings back his childhood imaginary best friend to help him with his problems. Only problem is that his imaginary friend is also sociopathic, so things don't exactly go well. Daniel Isn't Real is based upon the Brian DeLeeuw novel In This Way I Was Saved, and he adapted it with director Adam Egypt Mortimer.
Luke's mom has mental problems. He thinks maybe he's getting the mental problems also, since he once had an imaginary friend, Daniel, who tried to get him to kill his mom via overdose. With the help of his mom, he "locks him away" inside a large dollhouse, but now that Luke's grown up, he thinks maybe it's time to let Daniel out to help with the social traumas he's dealing with in his new college life.
Since I don't give spoilers, I can't say too much more about the plot. The film is a stylish, good looking work that features some strong performances from Miles Robbins as Luke and Patrick Schwarzennegger as Daniel. Patrick – looking much more like a young James Mason than his actual father, legend Arnold Schwarzennegger – does an excellent job of portraying the charismatic, American Psycho-like Daniel.
Sasha Lane puts out a strong performance as Cassie, a quirky artist who falls for Luke, and Mary Stuart Masterson is always dependably strong, this time as the mother who waffles between lucid and mental-patient-who-may-be-seeing-things.
At times this plays like a weirded-out version of Bad Influence, the 1990 Rob Lowe/James Spader film, but with imagery reminiscent of the original Jacob's Ladder. Daniel at first seems to be helping Luke to become more popular and successful with the ladies, but soon his true colors show.
Tip of the hat to the cinematography of Lyle Vincent – he film is colorful yet dark, and the compositions of his shots create real menace right from the first scene. The music by Clark (yes, that's his full-credited name) is an interesting blend of mutated horns and orchestra, and perfectly accompanies Luke's descent into madness.
Not overly gory for the most part, Daniel Isn't Real features some extraordinary practical effects and strong direction from Mortimer. For those seeking an engrossing independent horror film, this should fill the void nicely.
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