"Joseph Christiana’s Nightmare is initially deceptive in that it belies its universally affecting premise. This is the art, the challenge of film in its short form. To grip an audience and over the course of a few miserly minutes transport them. To expertly upend the expected and leave the viewer with a slight of hand slice of life that resonates. The Nightmare does just this within its six minute black and white study in abject helplessness. This fear is here cleverly examined by the director through visual queues that are instantly recognizable as horror cinema mainstays.
A child (played here by the director’s young son) finds himself dropped into a color and dialog bleached landscape that is at once familiar and terrifyingly alien. A faceless menace stalks the boy as he flees from the inescapable. A hammer clenched firmly within his iron grip and with a pace that never falters this surely malevolent entity closes in on its pray.
A shuffling of location and the introduction of duo of decidedly ambivalent additional characters signals a wonderful constriction of the plot as its double meanings spiral into one. The Nightmare admirably holds tight to its simplicity never allowing its impetus to spiral needlessly into the convoluted. Thus leading us to a finale from which we find our minds reeling backward to the very first frame. We watch it again this time dressed in its freshly revealed context and the piece takes on entirely new meaning. This again is a goal toward which many short films aspire. The trickery, the clever twisting of conventional thought that leaves an audience contentedly fooled. A job well done."
(Christiana's) short film The Nightmare is a taut, clever and potent short which both disturbed and entertained me and has won a lot of acclaim in the indie festival circuit including the Montreal Underground Film Festival as well as becoming a YouTube favourite.
Christiana shows us all that the time of the “big idea” people is arriving by producing a top shelf piece of film with great visuals, great sound design and most of all an engrossing and smart story while doing a complete end-run around the creative establishment. Did I mention he does all this without any real dialogue? Oh yeah, he does that too.
"Christiana takes a couple generic horror standards and an easy “target” to generate suspense, i.e. a child in peril, but keeps the largely wordless story moving along at a nice clip to get the audience quickly hooked. Shooting in B&W gives the film an eerie, otherworldly feel so that when the scenes shift abruptly, it’s easy to go along for the ride.
The perspective also changes quite frequently, easily shifting from taking the victim’s perspective to put the audience into his young, terrified shoes to showing us his reactions to the horrible visions he must face. For a virtually wordless film, Christiana does a great job getting audience to identify with the main character and allows us to reflect on our own fears that we all faced in childhood.
There’s also lots of other nice things working strongly in the film’s favor, from the the spooky, almost background-noise-like soundtrack to the really creative ending. The film’s only about six minutes long, but Christiana packs a good amount of terror into it and manages that short time wisely by making every shot really count."
Ah, what better way to start a new working weekend than by delving into a surrealist, disturbing series of sequences? Joseph Christiana‘s The Nightmare is a very intriguing, well executed short horror-fantasy film that uses its brief running time well to weave a series of odd, surreal, nightmare sequences together as a young boy is pursued by … something … Stick with it to the end – there’s effective dream-logic sequences that disturb nicely, some good horror-fantasy imagery and excellent use of sound right from the start, leading up to a satisfying climax, a very effective piece of short film craft. You can check out more on Joseph’s website with links to other works, interviews and film podcasts he takes part in.
Tormented by one surreal, terrifying predicament after another, a boy is confronted with his inner fear. As the air becomes harder and harder to breath, as his tormentors become stranger and press in closer, the boy begins to realize the true nature of his situation.