Living Nightmare follows the man named Story through a manic journey between reality and insanity. Story (Ponder) is obsessed or possessed by Ray Harker (Isbell) while he's chased by cops, dreaming of murder and dismemberment, and listening to an off-screen director. Story is eerily unsure of what's real and what's part of the movie in which he's trapped. As a result, he often relives the same scenes over and over again with differing results.
As Story continually twists and turns through his own mental mayhem, he struggles to find any semblance of stable ground. Who's really directing? Who is Ray…the devil…a manifestation of his own evil? And who the hell is Moon and what's with his missing girlfriend? Was it really Colonel Mustard? In the Conservatory? WITH THE CANDLESTICK?
The weakness of the film is that viewers are chucked around on this mental rollercoaster without any stability of their own. Story's girlfriend continually bounces between two different actresses, as the director chooses, leaving the repeated scenes building more and more confusion without any real flow. It isn't until very late that these events even remotely make sense. Viewers will most likely base their entire decision whether or not to enjoy the film with its finale'. The final showdown between Story and Ray, which has been building the entire time, will either thrill or disappoint the audience, or, more likely, just leave everyone puzzled.
The story has some high aspirations, at times invoking the kind of strange headtrip influenced by Identity or Dark City . The disjointed events and non-linear dreams could work well if the film had Kubrick at the helm and a lot more money. Instead, the acting, editing and effects have a lackluster result. The only real hole in the writing involves Story and his girl. Regardless of what's reality and what's not, no one should ever go back to bed with a woman who bit off their manhood.
Not all of the acting is terrible. The edgy cop, who also happens to be Story's woman's dad, does a good job of balancing acting and overacting as the script dictates. Even when the mock director barks “cut”, he instantly switches speeds and delivers one of the movie's rare jokes.
It's entirely possible that Living Nightmare owns the record for number of times “Stupid Piece of Shit” is said in one movie.
There are low-budget movies and there are no-budget movies, and Living Nightmare definitely fits into the latter category. Shot on the budget equivalent to most strip mall haircuts, this film is victimized all around by monetary constraints. Ninety percent of the screen time involves the actors staring directly into the camera, usually while shining a flashlight.
The most off-target aspect of the film comes from the audio. With everything from blaring sirens, screeching cats and bad techno, the soundtrack distracts more than assists the movie. These might be cleaned up since this was a pre-release, and some compression and leveling would go a long way to help.
When Living Nightmare leaves Story's head and moves outdoors, it's pretty good. There's one stunt in particular which is impressive for such a budgeted film.
DVD extras were not included on this release, but a commentary track would be a welcome addition from producer/actor Isbell and other cast members.