April, 1998: Nightwatch

The original, Danish, version of this movie, Nattevagten, was released four years prior to the remake and is regarded as the superior attempt at a horror/thriller– at least that’s what the internet thinks. In the end, the 1998 version ends up being a cheap emulation of a film that is three years its senior, David Fincher’s Se7en.

Where Se7en succeeds, Nightwatch utterly fails.

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True to its name, Nightwatch follows the story of Martin (played by Ewan McGregor). Martin is in the throes of law school and finds a new job as a nightwatchman in a local morgue. It’s clear from the start that things are slightly off-kilter as the start of this job also marks the beginning of a murder investigation into the death of a prostitute that is transferred to the same morgue.

As Martin slips slowly into madness, prodded by his friend James (played by Josh Brolin), evidence begins to mount against him as his friends and co-workers turn against him. As more and more pieces fall into place, it is evident that someone is setting him up.

This film would be a total loss if it weren’t for the first thirty minutes. It’s clear that the director, Ole Bornedal, has a knack for establishing atmosphere. In particular, a scene where Martin is sitting in his booth, studying, while his reflection stares back at him through a window in front of him, waiting for something to strike, is suspenseful and important to the character’s development.

Aside from the first act and some inventive cinematography, there isn’t much this film does right. It reveals its mystery far too early and loses all momentum before its climax.

Matt: Watch it for the atmosphere
Gabe: Don't watch

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