Nightwatch (1994)
Directed by Ole Bornedal

Starring Kim Bodnia Lotte Andersen Nikolaj Coster-Waldau Sofie Gråbøl

Released to wide acclaim in Europe, this Danish thriller goes places that American movies generally fear to tread. Not surprisingly, it would be picked up by an American distributor (Miramax), who would suppress the movie over here, hire the director to make a U.S. remake, then gut that film of all the sinister black humor of the original. The remake, also called "Nightwatch," starred Ewan McGregor and is now a forgotten piece of crap on video shelves around the world.

The original remains a classic, and is terrifying enough to qualify as a horror film, although it's probably best classified as a "psychological thriller." Whatever. The lines get blurred between those two genres all the time anyway. There's enough in here to satisfy any horror fan.

Waldau plays a law student who accepts a job as a night guard at a morgue. Alone until morning, he needs to patrol the place, including rooms where badly mutilated corpses are kept, and seems to have a tough time keeping a grip on reality. There's rumors of an old guard who used to have sex with the corpses!

In the meantime, a serial killer is on the prowl, knocking off nubile young females. One of the bodies naturally turns up in our hero's morgue, and he learns that the victims are all scalped. Days later, an alarm goes off. He goes to check on it, to find the body raped and draped on a hallway floor. When he calls an on-duty doctor in to check out the scene, the body's been moved right back to where it originally was. People begin to think he's crazy.

Things start getting even more interesting from there.

A brilliant thriller, almost as good as "Thesis," "Nightwatch" tragically only saw a video release in the U.S., because suits over here wanted to make an American version. See the Danish version, which was thankfully released on video in the U.S. and is now more widely distributed than the crap remake (which, tragically, was also directed by Bornedal and reportedly led to his disillusionment with Hollywood). A similar remake disaster happened to the Dutch film "The Vanishing," with its director being brought over to the U.S. to helm a remake, only to have his ending changed by moronic U.S. producers.

Needless to say, the original "Nightwatch" is a classic thriller that's surprisingly morbid and also quite funny. It's hampered by a cheesy happy ending, but the Hitchcockian suspense scenes would the best to come out of Europe, until … well, Amenabar's "Thesis." Fortunately, Amenabar hasn't been coaxed into making a crappy U.S. remake of that yet (at least not at the time of this writing).

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-- Review by Lucius Gore


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