May 1998
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Movie review: Nightwatch

By Lawrence Cabanero

After more than a year and a half of release date pushing, Nightwatch has finally creeped its way into theaters. Starring Ewan McGregor, as Martin, a lone nightwatchman in a morgue, and Patricia Arquette his girlfriend, Nightwatch lacks any spectacular or even interesting performances you'd might expect, in boring roles you'd might not expect these actors to be playing.

Through nearly entire first hour of the film, director Ole Bornedal uses every trick in the book to make your skin crawl or to at least try to make you dump a bit of your popcorn. The building is ridiculously decorated with spooky quirks--the front door that doesn't always shut when you want it to, the large, plastic-covered columns at the entrance that move like ghosts in the darkness, the room with large mysterious vats that the former watchman warns "Don't ever go in there." A light flickers at the end of the hall; moths swarm inside the dim light fixtures in his office.

Martin's duties as a night watchman include the absurd task of walking through a room with dead bodies lined up on both sides, each with a sensor dangling above them in case one decides to get up. At times, the cheesiness of its endless mini-spooks makes you think that this movie was meant satire the horror flick or at least poke fun at them, but its disappointingly unoriginal conclusion actually depends on these predictably little but significant factors. It is almost as if at first, Bornedal tries to go over the top with his tongue in his cheek, but gives up when the plot actually comes into play.

The remainder of the movie is painfully predictable. A series of murders occurs, involving such elements as sex and and gouging a victim's eyes out. Of course, McGregor's character is framed as the only person around when a corpse is sexually assaulted. Arquette is limited to the role of the skeptic-turn-angry sidekick. A major fault in the film is that there are only one or two other people in the movie for us to guess as the actual murderer. When the answer is revealed, the audience is forced to endure 30 minutes of unsuspenseful gore involving characters they no longer care about, if in fact they cared for them at all.

Nightwatch is entertainment spit out of a machine that wasn't sent through quality control before being shipped to your local cineplex. Keep in mind though that this movie wasn't meant to be Oscar-worthy. As pathetic as it is, its goal is to scare you a bit and to make you flinch at the stomach-turning images flashed on the screen. And it at least succeeds in that.

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