Monday, December 13, 2021

Al-Kaboos: The Nightmare (1989)

A young woman is having vivid and terrifying nightmares. Gradually they get worse and worse, starting to affect reality, leaving her to wonder just how real they are...

Unlike Egyptian director Mohammad Shebl's other films, Al-Kabus (The Nightmare) is just a straight up horror film. No forced satire or subtext about the Egyptian housing market, or how doctors and plumbers are the real vampires. Instead the plot here is a dream-centric horror film. It does this in a good way, and most importantly it doesn't feel like it's just ripping off A Nightmare on elm Street!

The nightmares here take the form of a kidnapping situation, by a group of thugs. I was quite surprised that the dreams take the form of something so normal, as opposed to something overtly fantastical, like dream demons, or hellish visions. The movie does well in portraying the horror and tension of such a 'mundane' situation, without sacrificing the unearthly feel.

The film is relatively light on dialogue for the first half, preferring instead to get its story across visually. This is helpful, seeing as how I saw the movie without subtitles. I was a bit lost in later 
sections of the movie, like when the plot presumably all comes together. The climax seemed confusing in a way beyond language barrier.

Al-Kabus is paced well for the most part, but there's a bit of a lull in the final act where it gets a bit boring, and the climax is pretty disappointing. = yet they seem to completely vanish, and we just see things from the woman's point of view in the dream as she continues evading her captors, and taking them out herself. Almost to a sadistic degree, to the point where I was thinking 'You could've just kicked them in the balls, lady!'.

I think the main issue us that it's just more of what we've been seeing, and doesn't advance the story to an endpoint at all. Then it just stops, and we get a happy denouement, leading to a weird 'shock' ending that seems like it's mirroring the first freaky dream. Or perhaps all the weird stuff is happening in the real world now, and the dreams were a portent of the future. In that case, it's kind of an odd choice to leave your movie with the heroine facing a peril we know she escapes from. Kind of like playing the entirety of A Nightmare on Elm Street, then you end the movie with Nancy's first nightmare, ending on a cliffhanger we already saw resolved. On that note, both Kabus and Elm Street have twist endings that make no sense with their internal continuity.

The woman, Merivet is a proactive lead character, thinking fast and taking precautions, as well as fighting back against her dream kidnappers as much as possible, to great effect! However, I find it frankly irresponsible of her to leave her silverware in another dimension. I mean, come on, good cutlery doesn't grow on trees you know!

The direction is pretty standard. Nothing looks bad, but not much that's overly impressive. One bizarre part of the last act is a few scenes that are comprised entirely of still shots. Whether it was a stylistic choice or done out of necessity, I can only guess.

Al-Kabous is light on effects, but what we get looks good, mainly a gooey immolation in the finale.

There are some familiar faces of Egyptian cinema, particularly the horror scene, with performers/actors such as Yousra, and Ahmed Abdelaziz. They all seem to do fine jobs, I think. The awful quality of the print I saw made it a bit hard to tell.

The Nightmare is a pretty good horror flick. An interesting, if flawed, spin on the horror potential of dreams, that manages to do its own thing with an often derivative subgenre...

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