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[Review]: Nightwatch:Demons Are Forever

Thirty years since the release of one of the most influential Danish horror films of all time, comes the sequel to Ole Bornedal’s psychological crime chiller Nightwatch (1994). Directed by Bornedal himself, Nightwatch: Demons Are Forever follows Emma (Fanny Leander Bornedal), the daughter of the first film’s protagonist Martin (the returning Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), as she attempts to unearth the dark past that has returned to haunt her father and his friends. 

Following the suicide of her mother and her father’s consequential descent into depression, Emma investigates the occurance which turned her parents’ lives upside down thirty years earlier by taking up a nightwatcher position in the exact same forensic morgue her father martin occupied previously. After discovering the details that were played out in the previous film, Emma visits notorious serial killer Wörmer in his jail cell where, despite her need to prove him an incapacitated old man in order to pacify her father’s fears, she actually provokes and revives the killer within. As bodies begin to drop around them, Emma and her father must discern who they can trust as they find history begins to repeat itself in a tense and bloody game of hunter vs prey. 

Whereas the original Nightwatch was a grungy and sluggish examination of the abyss of depravity the human mind can plunge to, devoid of any real emotional depth, Nightwatch: Demons Are Forever deviates from this and seeks to centre itself on everyone’s favourite modern horror theme – trauma and its effects on generations to come. Just like Hereditary (2018), Smile (2022) and Megalomaniac (2022), Ole Bornedal’s sequel focuses on a parent/child relationship and how the child of a traumatised parent inherits that trauma in a cyclical nature, and going untreated, can cause dangerous and disastrous consequences. Whereas the 1994 film was light on the emotional narrative, the 2024 follow-up lays it on thick and heavy, which at times feels a bit sickly sweet, bypassing any sort of extreme human darkness that the first film seeks to portray. 

Despite not quite achieving the balance of familial drama and ominous crime thriller, Nightwatch: Demons Are Forever does provide Coster-Waldau with a platform to demonstrate just how capable an actor he is. Discarding the now famous Jamie Lannister hot stud playbook, his turn as a widowed Martin, still haunted by his time as a nightwatchman, continuously attempting and failing to hold his life together as his daughter drifts further away from him, is heartbreaking. A complete dichotomy to his boyishly boisterous character in the first film, Martin is now fragile and constantly living in a state of fear as the shadow of Wörmer looms over him, despite the killer being incarcerated. 

Nightwatch: Demons Are Forever attempts to answer the question of once the credits roll, what happens to the victims of the horror movie monster and what are the psychological consequences of such a trauma. Despite a powerful performance from Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, the film doesn't quite seem to fully get into the swing of things, leaving its position as a sequel as quite redundant. 

2.5 Screams out of 5

Nightwatch: Demons Are Forever is now available to stream on Shudder.


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