Daniel Isn’t Real (2019) – movie review

Daniel Isn't Real. Image credit: courtesy of YouTube Daniel Isn't Real. Image credit: courtesy of YouTube

So, I owe all my readers an apology and a brief update before we move on to speak about Daniel Isn’t Real. Lately, I have only been posting Top 10 lists because I didn’t get the chance to watch and review new movies.

There are two reasons behind it: the first one, is that I got offered a very appealing office job that’s consuming all my time and energy since the beginning of December. Obviously, this means that Horror World & Reviews isn’t going to be a source of income for me anymore; at least, it’s not going to be my main job anymore, therefore I will not able to post reviews, lists and analyses as often as I used to in the past. On top of that, my personal profile – and the page linked to it – have been permanently deleted from a popular social media, for no apparent reason. At the moment, I’m still trying to solve the issue but having a deleted profile restored is harder than becoming President of the United States, apparently.

Please understand this is kind of a hard time for this website, with a lot of things going on at the same time… that said, whether Horror World & Reviews becomes a hobby or stays something I do professionally, my goal is to deliver the best quality reviews and assessments on horror cinema. That I can guarantee 100%. Now, let’s speak about Daniel Isn’t Real!

Continue reading and check my final grade below…

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This is the second horror film from the director of Some Kind of Hate (2015) and, based on his directorial debut, I was truly convinced Daniel Isn’t Real was going to suck. I was very glad to be proven wrong as Daniel Isn’t Real not only doesn’t suck, but it’s a really great horror movie!

This film follows a troubled college freshman, Luke (Miles Robbins), suffers from a violent family trauma and from fear of being schizophrenic like his mother, therefore he “resurrects” his childhood imaginary friend Daniel (Patrick Schwarzenegger) to help him cope. However, at the beginning of the movie, Daniel already appeared to be something more sinister than your regular imaginary friend.

Unlike most horror flicks based on the concept of imaginary-friends, which are generally dull and predictable, Daniel Isn’t Real manages to stand out due to a script that’s able to combine different horror sub-genres, such as body-horror, psychological horror and supernatural horror. Yet, in the film these crossovers never feel jarring and, instead, provide the story with various layers of unpredictability, which only makes certain scenes scarier and more uncomfortable.

Although the first half of Daniel Isn’t Real seems to lean more towards psychological drama than horror, the second half manages to be extremely creepy, visually disturbing and downright scary at times. This is, also, achieved through a thought-out presentation that never reaches the highest level, but feels constantly purposeful and creative: the camera-work with its POV shots implements the narrative, whereas the combination of polished wide shots and surreal close-ups gives the movie a unique vibe.

Yet, the first half of the film might not be horrifying as the second, but it’s very much needed to develop the characters and to establish the interaction between Luke and Daniel, which is a joy to watch. Both actors (Robbins and Schwarzenegger… yes, the sons of) give fantastic performances, and their onscreen chemistry truly makes you feel for them – mostly for Luke. Due to the well-executed character development and the purposeful cinematography, even the slower parts of Daniel Isn’t Real feel quite fast-paced and engaging. The movie doesn’t feature a single dull moment and something relevant is always happening, whether it’s something genuinely horrifying or something that goes on in the characters’ mind.

There is, however, an element that I think makes the whole picture: the music. The score for Daniel Isn’t Real is probably one of the best I listened to in any movie in 2019. It’s eerie and mysterious, but also memorable and captivating. The great thing about it is how composer Clark decided to scratch or elongate certain notes, to give the soundtrack a very unsettling and disturbing vibe. With different music, this film wouldn’t be nearly as effective, despite great performances and solid script.

In terms of screenwriting, though, one of the few issues is that the dialogue between characters feel quite predictable. For example, the psychologist character says exactly what you would expect to hear from a psychologist in movie, and the same goes for the girlfriend, the mom and so on.

Yet, despite its engaging surrealism, Daniel Isn’t Real too often falls victim of cliched plot points that you would expect from lesser movies. Finally, one scene towards the end – where broomsticks turn into something unexpected – looks rather silly and unintentionally laughable.

Aside from these minor issues, Daniel Isn’t Real is a great watch that should appeal to both viewers who like to stick to familiar territories and the ones who seek for a different cinematic experience. It’s a great follow-up to a shitty directorial debut, and I can’t recommend it enough!

Daniel Isn’t Real                                8/10

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