New Streaming Releases: Daniel Isn't Real (2019) - Reviewed

At the end of 2019 came one of the strangest and most surreal horror films of the year. Daniel Isn't Real from director Adam Egypt Mortimer mixes the duality of Fight Club with the teen angst of Donnie Darko into a tasty blend of mind melding horror and a stylish descent into sheer madness. 

When Luke, the central character, becomes a bit older, his childhood imaginary friend returns to assault his senses and the people around him. Sharply, reality becomes skewed as Luke falls headlong into a strange world of unflinching violence, newfound sensuality, modern artistry, and a crazy turn of events that fully questions his sanity. Played by Miles Robbins (the son of Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins), Luke is a skillfully rendered version of your typical everyday boy next door, except that he has a serious problem: the buddy that lives inside his head wants to kill and take over his life. The resulting scenarios are satirical, bloody, and totally insane. 

These tiles may contain asbestos. Beware. 

Through a careful eye that delivers an amazing looking lower budget feature, Mortimer definitely trades style for great acting. Much of the interaction feels melodramatic while many of the actors don't really feel comfortable with their material. Yet, Patrick Schwarzenegger (yeah, Arnold's kid) plays Daniel to full effect. He's carries the weight of the entire movie with little effort, showing that he's going to continue his upward trend in film. Doing his damnedest to create a dark figure that fills Luke's head with horrible visions, he's easily the funnest part of this project. Sasha Lane (Hellboy, American Honey) also stars in a limited support role that continues to help her build more indie cred on her ever expanding resume. 

There's some lighting techniques here that heavily borrow the Nicolas Winding Refn aesthetic as the creator behind the film weaves in and out of Luke's perception of reality. Where he sometimes falters in keeping the story interesting, he definitely knows how to deliver freaky looking visual effects and makeup work from his talented crew. Also in the positive camp are the environmental shots that feel ripped directly from the realms of Clive 
Barker. There are some huge shots of the abyss that are pure nightmare fuel. 

Again, nothing here falls into the category of highly original, but there's so many interesting nods going on that fans of cinema will have a great time seeing what they've done with Daniel Isn't RealPicking up on this right after watching next week's upcoming release of Color Out Of Space, my brain is officially fried. 

Go into this one knowing you've seen this before in the form of other, far greater movies. But, sometimes that's okay. 

-Chris George