Saturday, June 22, 2024

Nightwatch: Demons Are Forever Review

Review: Writer/director Ole Bornedal and star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau reunite for the 30 years later sequel Nightwatch: Demons Are Forever

PLOT: Thirty years after the events of the 1994 serial killer thriller Nightwatch, the daughter of two of the deeply damaged surviving characters takes her dad’s old job as night watchman at the Department of Forensic Medicine. Investigating the events that ruined her parents’ lives, she accidentally kicks off a new killing spree.

REVIEW: Back in 1994, Danish filmmaker Ole Bornedal brought the world a serial killer thriller called Nightwatch, about a young law student named Martin (played by future Game of Thrones star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) who takes a job as night watchman at the Department of Forensic Medicine in Copenhagen and inadvertently gets mixed up in the investigation of the serial killer case that has been providing the morgue with a lot of fresh corpses. By the end of the film, Martin, his girlfriend Kalinka, and his best friend Jens have all had close calls with the killer, who is revealed to be policeman Peter Wörmer (Ulf Pilgaard). Nightwatch was so well received that it even received the English-language remake treatment, with Bornedal also directing that version of the story (which starred Ewan McGregor as Martin), working from a script he wrote with Steven Soderbergh. The result was a remake that may be just as good or even better than the original film – but, of course, viewer mileage will vary.

Bornedal has continued to work as the decades have passed, directing films like I Am Dina, The Substitute (2007), Just Another Love Story, Deliver Us from Evil (2009), The Possession (2012), and The Way to Mandalay, among other things, but none have gotten a warm international reception on the level of Nightwatch. Now, thirty years later, he has returned to the subject he has covered twice before to bring us the sequel Nightwatch: Demons Are Forever (a sequel to the original film, not the remake), and he has brought several familiar faces back with him.

If you thought Martin and Kalinka were in for a happily ever after as Nightwatch came to an end, Bornedal crushes that dream right up front in Demons Are Forever. They stayed together, they even had a daughter they named Emma, but happy they were not. Kalinka was tormented for the rest of her days, she was a drinker, she told Emma she was a mistake. She eventually committed suicide. So Sofie Gråbøl doesn’t reprise the role of Kalinka here, but Coster-Waldau is back to play Martin in this sequel… and he’s not in a good place, either. Not only is he traumatized by what happened in ‘94, but he’s also mourning the love of his life, so he spends his days medicated to oblivion and doesn’t communicate well with his daughter. Bornedal cast his own daughter, Fanny Leander Bornedal, as Martin and Kalinka’s daughter Emma – and say what you will about nepotism, but the younger Bornedal delivers a fine performance in the film. The writer/director couldn’t have hoped for a non-relative to do any better than his daughter does. She carries much of the film on her shoulders.

Nightwatch: Demons Are Forever review

Martin and Kalinka never told their daughter why they were so damaged. So Emma – who is now attending medical school – takes it upon herself to find out what happened to them. When she finds out that her parents got mixed up in a serial killer case while Martin was working as a night watchman, she takes her dad’s old job at the Department of Forensic Medicine… and when she finds out that Wörmer is still alive and locked up in a psychiatric hospital, she makes the poor decision to go there and confront the old man. (Pilgaard returns to the role.) She finds that Wörmer is a shell of his former self… but still, by visiting him, Emma accidentally kicks off a whole new killing spree that even gets Martin’s old friend Jens (played again by Kim Bodnia) and Jens’ ex Lotte (Vibeke Hastrup replaces Lotte Andersen in this role) involved. Emma’s boyfriend Frederik (Alex Høgh Andersen) and their classmate Sofus (Sonny Lindberg) also have roles in the story, but it’s classmate Maria (Nina Terese Rask) who really stands out. Not just because she has a bad haircut and wears shirts with slogans like “I f*cked your dad,” but because Rask does good work in the role while her character pays a price for being close to Emma.

It takes a while for danger to truly enter the picture in Nightwatch: Demons Are Forever; Emma doesn’t even visit Wörmer until almost the 40 minute mark, but once Emma has stirred up the hornets’ nest, the rest of the 113 minute running time (the movie is a bit longer than it needed to be) becomes a suspenseful ride. There is a mystery element, as we’re left to ponder who can be doing the killing while Wörmer is locked away, but we know from the start he has one disciple in the form of fellow mental patient Bent, who is brought to life in a strange, effectively and memorably creepy way by Casper Kjær Jensen.

Nightwatch: Demons Are Forever review

Nightwatch: Demons Are Forever isn’t quite on the level of either of version of Nightwatch. The story and structure just don’t work as well. But it is a good “thirty years later” sequel with an intriguing mystery, strong performances, bloodshed, intense scenes, creep-out moments, and some nice suspense. It’s interesting to catch up with the surviving characters from the first Nightwatch all this time down the line, even if things didn’t go well for them over the years. I’m glad Ole Bornedal returned to this story decades later, and I think fans of serial killer thrillers will have a good time watching this continuation.

Now, we wait and see. Will Nightwatch: Demons Are Forever get an English-language remake with Ewan McGregor, Josh Brolin, and Nick Nolte reprising their roles from the ‘97 film? We probably shouldn’t get our hopes up, but it would be pretty cool.

Nightwatch: Demons Are Forever will be available to watch on the Shudder streaming service as of May 17th.

Review: Writer/director Ole Bornedal and star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau reunite for the 30 years later sequel Nightwatch: Demons Are Forever

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