Monday, 19 August 2013

Review - Nightwatch (1994 - Dir. Ole Bornedal)

Martin (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is busy studying for his law degree. To make ends meet he gets himself a nice little job as a night watchman in a morgue. Bar work may be a bit more lively, but each to their own. His brief training consists of the old night watchman showing him the ropes. He has to visit each room and take a key, that is chained to the wall, and insert it into his little machine to prove that he has done the rounds. To get to the key in the morgue, he has to walk past rows of cadavers. Bar work still seems like the better option to me, but let's give it a chance. Finally he is shown a large red light in his office. This is the emergency alarm. Above each bed in the morgue is a pull cord. If one of the bodies just so happens to wake up, the startled person can pull the cord, and the red light starts to pulse, accompanied by a loud siren. Er, no... don't think this job suits, it's the Lamb and Flag for me.

I don't normally give much of a plot synopsis because I think films are better when you go into them cold. But here, the set-up is so mind-numbingly scary I had to share it. And the film lives up to its premise. It is really terrifying. On the first viewing. Repeated viewings lessen the impact dramatically so savour the first time if you do decide to give it a whirl.

Initially it seems as though it's going to fall foul of having very irritating main characters. Martin and his mate Jens dare each other to do stupid challenges (one particular challenge involving a prostitute). These stunts generally involve harming their relationships with their girlfriends. Not very endearing. But it's a testament to how the director has handled the actors' natural abilities that they come across as real people, who despite their faults are actually quite likeable. When they are in danger, you care about them, rather than wanting them to die. This makes Nightwatch pretty tense stuff.

Nightwatch was remade in 1997 by the same director, but starring Ewan McGregor and Patricia Arquette. I've never seen it but I haven't heard good things about it. A large part of the atmosphere is due to it being set in a different country and also, some of the references would be very out of place. For example, a story is told about Hans Christian Andersen as the characters look at a statue of him that I can't see happening in the American version. (The story confirms what I thought of Hans Christian Andersen based on that most important historical document, the 1952 musical.) 

Nightwatch is well acted, well made and well scary. It would probably get a nine out of ten for the first viewing, but taking repeat viewings into account...

If you like this you could also try:
The Chaser, Switchblade Romance, Shuttle.


  1. Great review! I've heard about Nightwatch for years on end now, but have not had time to watch it. I will take your advice and dive in for the first viewing...with an open mind and a genuine wonder about what happens when one of those corpses wakes up.

  2. Thanks for that. It is a good film but don't be disappointed when zombies don't make an appearance.

  3. Oh and thanks for adding obscure to your blog list. Consider yourself followed and added to mine :)

  4. Keith, its my pleasure. I dig your site, and your focus on Obscure film. We have similar interests I do believe. Feel free to drop by anytime you want. Unfortunately, I'm not always consistent, but it's always great to get a comment.



  5. If you need your ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend to come crawling back to you on their knees (even if they're dating somebody else now) you need to watch this video
    right away...

    (VIDEO) Get your ex back with TEXT messages?