Nightwatch: Demons Are Forever


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Nightwatch: Demons Are Forever
"There’s not a great deal here that we haven’t seen before, but it’s well delivered."

Mainstream Hollywood cinema has been stuck in a bit of a rut recently when it comes to sequels. Characters fall in love in the first film, marry in the second, have children in the third – a pattern which, whilst it may be relatable for many, has the effect of making those characters seem smaller, less satisfying to watch, playing out the same rather limited set of options as the average person, heading for old age where once they might have ridden off into the sunset and left us to imagine something better. Meanwhile, in horror, it gets a little more complicated. Though Halloween’s Laurie may find herself taking on the same fight over and over again, other characters, like those in Slumber Party Massacre and My Bloody Valentine 3D, see the next generation confronted by horrors they barely survived.

Thanks to Game Of Thrones, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is now a household name, but back in 1994 he was just another ambitious kid doing what a lot of young actors do: offering himself up on the altar of the slasher film. He had, however, one advantage denied to his US peers: even then, Denmark was a leader in gender equality, and one didn’t need to be female to survive. The original film is worth checking out, in part because it also features an impressive early turn by Sofie Gråbøl. This sequel, set 30 years later, reunites Coster-Waldau with original director Ole Bornedal, who sets out to recapture the magic. Again, he has a strong cast at his disposal, including Ulf Pilgaard – better known now for his work in Borgen – who returns as trichophilic killer Wörmer.

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After 30 years, neither Wörmer nor Coster-Waldau’s Martin is quite what he used to be. Both, in their different ways, are haunted men, still wrestling with the demons of the past. Wörmer is in an institution. Martin is a heavy-drinking, pill-popping wreck who has just about managed to hold himself together because of his devotion to his daughter, Emma (played by the director’s daughter, Fanny Leander Bornedal), but who is struggling with the fact that she’s now a young adult who wants to live a more independent life. Determined to find out what made him like this, as he has told her very little, Emma goes digging into the past and opens up a can of worms. She is determined to confront Wörmer and film the encounter so that she can show her dad that he’s no longer anything to be afraid of. To facilitate this, she gets a job on the night watch at the very Forensic institute where the events of the first film took place.

Viewers will easily be able to imagine where things go from here, but the director does a good job of spinning it out, making a lot out of the generational impact of Martin’s trauma in the meantime. The younger Bornedal is impressive and the father/daughter dynamic gives the film a little something different, especially as it steers clear of clichéd rescue dynamics in favour of something more natural. Both lead characters have their own challenges to face. A subplot involving a young psychiatric patient called Bent (Casper Kjær Jensen) who has former an attachment to Wörmer doesn’t entirely work but does show off an impressive performance.

Viewers tend to be a bit more enlightened about mental illness than they were 30 years ago and this presents the film with a challenge, but although it can’t get away from having a mentally ill villain, it successfully presents him as a damaged person who is in many ways vulnerable himself, whilst complicating the narrative at several levels. The fact that Martin is now also mentally ill contributes to this, and let’s just say that other characters might not be 100% trustworthy. Emma, meanwhile, has to make a conscious effort to hold onto her own sanity and retain control in dangerous circumstances. At times, viewers may feel the same.

There’s not a great deal here that we haven’t seen before, but it’s well delivered. If creepy thrillers with a body count are your thing, it’s well worth a look.

Reviewed on: 16 May 2024
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Nightwatch: Demons Are Forever packshot
A young woman unwittingly sets off a gruesome chain of revenge.

Director: Ole Bornedal

Writer: Ole Bornedal

Starring: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Alex Høgh Andersen, Kim Bodnia, Paprika Steen, Sonja Richter, Fanny Leander Bornedal, Christopher Læssø, Ulf Pilgaard, Thomas Hou Mandsfeldt, Alexander Behrang Keshtkar, Torben Svendsen

Year: 2023

Runtime: 110 minutes

Country: Denmark


London 2023

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