I really wanted to like this movie.
For one it boasts one of the more infamous settings in Gothic literature, the stormy night that Lord Byron challenged his guests to come up with a story to scare and chill the soul. This challenge brought his physician, John William Polidori to come up with his novel, The Vampyre, but more importantly it bore witness to the birth of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.
With that kind of source material cast on the banks of Lake Geneva and set during the romantic victorian period you’d think it would be ripe with potential.
Sadly though it feels more like a blurred dream as director Nora Unkel strives to create her vision in a living nightmare.
The tone seems completely off and out of key, which is a shame.
If I can take any positives out of the film is that it centres on Mary Shelley’s plight as the mistress to the great poet Percy Shelley and the status that she is subjected to because of her position in society. Unkel expertly wrangles out the male chauvinistic attitude that was portrayed at the time and in some cases is still prevalent today. I found it interesting and indeed a bold choice to cast Percy Shelley in a dark light, where he was the perfect image of sentimentality. The brutal truth exposed, but could have been capitalised further and in order to capture the stuff of nightmare, could have sharpened the tools of doom and disaster.
It is during the aforementioned time that Mary stays with her partner, Shelley, her sister Claire, Lord Byron, and Polidori ata the Byron house where all manner of sinister things occur that she begins to hallucinate, drawing her fictionalised novel into reality.
These illusions albeit shocking for the time that it was set, feels too trapped in the romantic side of the Victoria Era and although it does draw forth the dramatic component of the free-living lifestyle that that led, it doesn’t tap into the darker side that the period became known for and sparked numerous classic pieces of literature as a result.
A Nightmare Wakes has the perfect setting and source material to pull from, but rather than rise to the occasion, it shuffles slowly along to an incredibly boring conclusion.
- Saul Muerte