DANIEL ISN’T REAL (2019) is a demonic possession film that doesn’t quite pull off its big ambitions in its final act, but it’s polished and has great energy to it.
Based on the novel by Brian DeLeeuw, the novel opens with Luke, a boy who meets Daniel, an imaginary friend, at the site of a mass murder. When Daniel gets Luke into trouble, Luke banishes him, but then brings him back years later as a college student (Miles Robbins, son of Tim Tobbins and Susan Sarandon) troubled by a violent family trauma. Daniel now appears as an adult (Patrick Schwarzenegger, son of Arnold Schwarzenegger). Charismatic and fearless, Daniel helps Luke cope with his social awkwardness and fears, leading to new experiences and conquests. But Daniel is not a friend, and he poses a threat to Luke’s very soul.
Think FIGHT CLUB meets Clive Barker, and you get the idea of what’s going on here. The premise promises a fairly predictable core story–genie grants wishes but demands a price–but there’s real effort behind the directing and cinematography, and while I didn’t agree with all the casting choices, the actors deliver solid performances from a script that occasionally waxes toward being clever. Unfortunately, the last act delivers little in way of surprises and occasionally lapses into silliness.
In the end, I threw my hands up trying to figure out what I thought of this one. I liked it, and I think it’s worth a watch if for nothing else the love that obviously went into its crafting. Overall, check it out if you’re game for some quirky horror.