When Luke (Miles Robbins) was a little boy he made friends with another little boy named Daniel. But as Luke discovers, Daniel is a bad influence for him. Luke also discovers that Daniel is just an imaginary friend and is not real. After a horrific trauma, Luke is forced to get rid of Daniel by locking him up in a doll house. In the present day, Luke (Miles Robbins) is now a college freshman. Unfortunately for Luke, he is having problems dealing with personal traumas. Thinking the release of Daniel (Patrick Schwarzenegger) may allow him to move forward from his current status Luke releases Daniel from the doll house, discovering Daniel is now a similar age. Daniel agrees to help Luke with his life and personal issues.
But little does Luke know that Daniel has plans that are far worse than he could ever imagine.
If you’ve ever seen the film Drop Dead Fred (1991), the best way to describe this film is to use the same concept but turn it into a horror movie. It’s a concept that I really liked the sound of but its results are a mixed bag for me.
The look and tone of this film is great. It’s as dark and gritty as you would expect a horror film to be. The film’s setting and locations were also positive to see. Eerie sounds tracks were also used to give a nice compliment to the overall horror tones.
Daniel Isn’t Real has a positive first act with a good general plot and introduction. We gain a good amount of information about Luke’s upbringing
and the problems that are occurring within his own home. The introduction to a young Daniel is also positive and it’s enjoyable to see this new friendship develop only to turn dark. The film’s ending (no spoilers) was also enjoyable even though final moments did cause me to raise both my eyebrows and left me with unanswered questions.
The biggest problem with Daniel Isn’t Real is found in its second act. Once Luke and Daniel are reunited at an older age the plot is pretty slowed down with the two leads spending their time going to clubs, drinking and hooking up with girls. Luke seems to think partying with an imaginary friend is the answer to his problems. At no point does the older Luke of the second act even question who Daniel really is or why Daniel found Luke in the first place. Nor does Luke seems concerned with Daniel’s interactions in their past… The relationship is accepted far too easily and what they do together at first is… well not whole lot. But it’s obvious that Daniel generally isn’t happy with Luke. Some tense moments are had as the audience sees things from Daniel’s perspective.
Another struggle for me were some of the key performances in this film, particularly when it came to the actor Patrick Schwarzenegger who plays Daniel. The relationship between Luke and Daniel can feel fickle and even unconvincing. It just feels like we see two mates going out for fun. I found myself needing to remind myself of the film’s initial plot from time to time because performances didn’t feel consistent.
Overall, Daniel Isn’t Real brings a fantastic concept to the horror genre. While the film’s concept, filming style and gritty tone are appealing to me, unfortunately the film let its audience down with the key performances and minor details within the core of its plot. The first and Final act are generally enjoyable, but I’m left with questions which have no answers, and in the end I felt this was a truly mixed bag with missed opportunities.
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Review Written by Peter Walkden