Clear yet confusing

by Robert Pagán

Have you ever felt like someone was watching you? Like something was watching you? Recording everything that happens…or recording things that didn’t happen. All this is explored in Nightmare Code.

Brett Desmond (Andrew J. West), a genius programmer with a disturbed past is called in to finish a top secret behavior recognition program, ROPER, after the previous Lead Programmer went insane. All seems fine at first. But the mystery unravels and Brett learns more and more about the code, stranger thing begin to occur. His behavior changes in unusual ways.

Nightmare Code makes great use of its camera…or should I say cameras. The entire film is shot through multiple cameras. It is not just that multiple cameras are used to shoot one scene. Multiple cameras are on screen at one time. It reminds me much of Timecode where four different camera perspective are on the screen at the same time. This film is different that the cameras are more like surveillance cameras. Various angles and places are shown at once. Webcam and eyeglass cameras are also utilized. They give the film a more home movie or handheld camera despite not being shot with one.

Nightmare Code
Directed by
Mark Netter
Andrew J. West, Mei Melançon, Googy Gress
Release Date
29 September 2015
Robert’s Grade: B+

The multiple perspectives on the screen at the same time also allow the viewer to see conversations in a different way. Often the cameras will show both people in the conversation at the same time. Unlike typical Hollywood filmmaking where someone talks and then you see the other person’s reaction, you can see it simultaneously. This can be much more engaging for a viewer, but having multiple cameras on the screen at once can be disorienting and confusing on which camera to watch. This is the same problem seen in Timecode. The film also makes use of the various cameras to show different scenes happening at different times. For instance, Brett interviews some of the other employees. Instead of showing each interview sequentially they are shown all at the same time. The audio switches between each to reveal different information. Once again this is clever, but also can be confusing at times.

The best character is this film is the scenery. More specifically the atmosphere is the best. However, what creates the atmosphere is behavior-recognition program ROPER. ROPER becomes a character itself as the film progresses. It almost seems that ROPER is choosing what to show us on screen. Which cameras are shown at what time and which angles are all chosen by the program. ROPER is narrating the story without ever saying a word. It shows the viewer what it needs to see. It has a mind of its own and develops as a character as any actor would do. This is an interesting choice to have an object rather than one of the characters played by an actor at the center of the film.

The one thing that didn’t click was the premise. The concept of the film is great and works mostly throughout the film. A computer program that starts to go haywire and has a mind of its own seems like a cool but not original idea. Yet, the reasoning behind it all doesn’t really satisfy the great concept behind it. Also the resolution and epilogue are obvious and predictable. I’m not saying every movie should have a twist or unexpected ending. However, it should be fulfilling to the viewer and have a payoff. Nevertheless, the film employs unique narrative storytelling devices with the use of the cameras. The eerie atmosphere created by ROPER doesn’t disappoint either.