PSA: An Insomniac’s Nightmare (2003), or Short, But Not Too Short

18 10 2009

So, for those of you in the know, my gal is a Ringer. She can’t get enough of Lord of the Rings. The first time I saw her room, riddled with LotR memorabilia, I thought perhaps I was meeting someone who worked for the production in some form or fashion, as there were huge larger-than-average posters surrounding the walls, mint-condition action figures, and a cardboard-cutout of all four hobbits that were, as far as I could tell, approximate scale height of a real hobbit. This was not the mark of a mere temp worker from New Zealand, however, but the mark of a true fan. And as long as I’ve known Bren, I’ve been kept up to date on all the goings-on of the actors involved in Jackson’s fantasy masterpiece. So when I heard from my lady love that Dominic Monaghan did a short film for a friend in 2003, I knew that I had to see what was going on with it. And I have to say, for a movie that was done as an obvious favor, Monaghan pours a lot into it, and that goes a long way in this splash-less dive into the world of independent film. At 31 minutes, it’s not exactly the shortest film I’ve ever seen, but it’s definitely the shortest film on the site I’ve submitted for your approval.

It’s pretty well explained by the title. An insomniac named Jack has been up for quite some time, and he just can’t seem to get to sleep. He tries everything, but there’s nothing he can do. So he inhabits his apartment, like a ghost, trying to find something to sate himself and his wide-awake mind. Hours and hours spent awake and inside begin to take their toll. The longer he stays up, the less grip on reality he has. He starts to have visions, perhaps from sleep-deprivation, of moments in his past that seek to drive him mad. A little girl, a lost friend, and people he’s never even met before come to him in his still-waking stupor, and Jack by the end may not be able to escape, because how can you evade a nightmare if you’re not even asleep?

Interesting imagery combined with a hand-held budget creates a eerie, riveting short that had me every send of that 31 minutes. It’s good, surprisingly good. Dominic Monaghan deserves more credit than he gets as an actor. He really does have more of a range than most directors will allow him to have. He’s a funny guy, but he can really lay on the drama. This is more of an introspective character, so you have a lot of scenes with Dom waxing poetic, and he does a fair job. Jack must have some sort of weird past, but I suppose the nature of a short doesn’t really allow us much time to digest who this guy is, so going off of what we got, we just know that something’s not right with him.

Director Tess Nanavati has a lot of good ideas, but they don’t always pan out so well. The isolation scenes where it’s just Monaghan and his voice-over are good, and those are the ones that really bring the concept to a fever pitch. But there are a number of scenes probably designed for terror, and they end up being more tepid than anything. Being by yourself, confronted by nightmarish entities is supposed to be tension-filled, but everyone around Dominic Monaghan seems to say “Phooey!” to that notion. The ghostly little girl, played by Ellen Sachs, looks scary, but doesn’t quite have the pacing or the presence to be really creepy. Jacks dead friend, played by Daniel Burke, suffers from the same problem. He’s not the kind of ghost with an unknowable mind or agenda; he’s more like the kind of ghost from Ghost Dad who’s willing to talk to you for a bit, get to know you, probably not even do anything to you, which, as Shakespeare would say, loses the name of action as quick as all get-out.

So if you can get your hands on this, I would check it out. It’s not exactly a timeless classic, but it’s a notable experiment using the concept of sleep deprivation from the other side of the world. Tess Nanavati, for a relative newbie, still succeeded in capturing my imagination, at least for about half an hour. The main reason for that is Dominic Monaghan, who definitely steps this production up a notch, but for the crew’s part, this was no ordinary amateurish indie short. I give An Insomniac’s Nightmare 7 sleepless nights out of 10. And a big thumbs up to my favorite Ringer, Bren, who let me in on this intriguing short film featuring one of her favorite hobbits!

I’ll be back in a few hours to finish up my review on Where The Wild Things Are! If you need a quick analysis to decide whether to go or not, I say see it now and hear me out later!

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One response

1 11 2009
Jenni David

I am always impressed at how you will watch anything!!

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