As a fan of motion pictures as a medium, I look for both style and substance in movies. I wish to be entertained, to be emotionally satisfied, sure, but I also want to be made to think, and to be shown deep themes and ideas in original and engaging ways. I am happy to report that the new computer generated film I Am Nightmare meets all these requirements.
Nightmare was written, directed and animated by one man: Michael Belmont, more commonly known by his pseudonym M. Dot Strange. Strange first came to my attention when a friend showed me his first film, We Are The Strange (2007), which rates as one of the most distinct and original movies I have ever seen, mainly due to its mind-blowing animation, which combined traditional stop-motion animation with CGI to create an unforgettable world.
For Nightmare Strange used only computer animation, but the result is no less spectacular: the film is one of the most beautiful animated features I have seen in a long while, with perfect artificial lighting and shadows. Though the textures are not as detailed as modern Pixar movie , they get the job done and in no way detract from the experience. This is good, as the design of the characters in the film could be potentially alienating to the audience: all the characters in Nightmare presented as strange living dolls, complete with white porcelain skin and ball-jointed limbs. Thankfully, well done movement and facial expression animations prevent them from seeming too lifeless, creating an effect similar to that found in the Toy Story trilogy of films, where similarly non-human creatures came off as relatable and alive.
This is not to say all the denizens of this world are benign-looking: the titular Nightmares are suitably disturbing, but intentionally so. Whether portraying beauty or horror, I Am Nightmare looks great while doing it, and will be appreciated by both animation experts and non-experts alike.
As anyone who has watched an early 90’s anime dub can tell you, voice acting can make or break a animated feature. Luckily, I Am Nightmare boasts an excellent cast: from Anna Brisbin’s impudently adorable TeeNee to Richard Grove’s slimily charismatic Mayor Tom, each actor infuses their characters with real life and emotion. The music is similarly effective, combining diverse instruments ranging from trumpets to electric guitars to create an unsettling and original score that suits the film’s tone perfectly.
To quote the film’s website, the premise of I am Nightmare is:
“In a sleepy little town that never changes…
Five foster kids just want to be kids.
One night they discover something strange…
But nobody seems to care.
They fight against a horde of strange monsters while the adults do nothing to help them.
Then one night a strange swordsman in black appears…
Is he a friend?
Or is he…….. I AM NIGHTMARE?!
The once peaceful town turns into chaos and the kids fight for survival in this new nightmare.”
To go into further detail would spoil some of the films surprises, of which there are many. Strange has crafted a true dark fairy tale full of mystery and suspense, in which characters keep you guessing about their true motivations up until the very end. The film forces you to think, about both its plot and its themes, which include cultural apathy, the conformist nature of small towns and the human capacity for self-delusion. M. Dot Strange clearly has a lot to say regarding modern life, but he does so in a way that doesn’t detract from the story or characters, creating an experience that remains equally entertaining and thoughtful from beginning to end.
All in all, I am Nightmare is an excellent film, full of imagination and originality, with an engaging script, great performances and entrancing visuals. If you’re looking for more than tired pop-culture references and talking rodents in hoodies in your animated movies, this is the one for you.
Final Grade: 9/10
I am Nightmare is available for purchase at http://iamnightmare.vhx.tv.