Mark Netter’s directorial debut is a merciless, calculated beast of found-footage horror. Nightmare Code tells the story of a young, hopeful computer programmer, Brett, brought into finish a top secret surveillance project left unfinished thanks to the mysterious death of its creator. However, the deeper he loses himself in the programme at hand, the more inescapable he finds himself, until the stomach-wrenching truth behind the project becomes all too real.
Made up from found footage via security cameras and laptop recordings, Nightmare Code paints a masterfully varied canvas in how its story is presented. Fusing scenes where the screen is made up of four security cameras at once with laptop camera calls, Netter drags the audience as close to the action as possible, giving the film a very personal flavour. The Nightmare Code itself centres on the effects of behavioural recognition through computers that keep a 24/7 surveillance. Bearing that in mind, one has to think if we’re seeing Brett tell his story or if we’re seeing the code’s story.
The film’s script is nothing out of the ordinary, but its familiar atmosphere of innocent individual turned inside out via a growingly intangible enemy compliments the direction to great effect. Netter deftly crafts a superbly isolated environment within the 10th floor of a business hub where Brett and his colleagues attempt to piece together the surveillance programme. In the grand scheme of all things horror, this is nothing new, but Netter’s crisp, brisk handling of the film and some fine performances from the main cast gives Nightmare Code a deft yet throttling indie charm.
Spinning off from this, Nightmare Code’s indie background gives the film’s horror tendencies some earthy ground, making them feel almost all the more genuine. The inevitable blood-splattering may not be entirely convincing, and in someone else’s hands the bare set pieces may feel unimaginative and hastily put together without much care. But here, the layout of the film works. The stripped-down surroundings collide with the claustrophobic nature of the film strikingly well, arming Nightmare Code with an endearingly simple yet highly palpable force with which to smack the audience with.
Nightmare Code is a snappy, thoroughly modern take on sci-fi horror. It has tension, effect and some emotional hook in a minimalist yet stylish delivery. It may not go down in history as a turning point in the journey of horror cinema, but it’s got more than enough enthusiasm to warrant a few kind words in any pocket-sized anthology on the subject.
NIGHTMARE CODE / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: MARK NETTER / SCREENPLAY: MARK NETTER, M.J. ROTONDI / STARRING: ANDREW J. WEST, MEI MELANCON, GOOGY GRESS, IVAN SHAW, NICHOLAS GUEST / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW (US VOD), OCTOBER 27TH (US DVD) TBC (UK)