“Daniel Isn’t Real” – Movie Review

Trauma often leaves a lasting impression on those who survive it, and coupled with an already turbulent and transformative time, trauma can certainly come back to bite.

Daniel Isn’t Real takes this idea, and runs with it to a surreal and unsettling place, as horror films often do. This latest Shudder exclusive will have its audience questioning their own sanity.

So as we prepare to descend down the corridors of madness, let’s take a closer look at Daniel Isn’t Real!

Daniel Might Be Real…
Following childhood trauma and witness his mother dealing with mental illness, Luke (Miles Robbins) reaches college-age with more than a few items of baggage in his psyche. His old imagery friend from childhood, Daniel (Patrick Schwarzenegger) resurfaces and takes him down a dark path.

Their chemistry/conflict serves as the backbone of the film itself.

Luke becomes erratic, and even violent, as he believes that Daniel is taking over his body in a true multiple personality fashion. But as Luke alienates his friends and loved ones more, we the audience wonder if Daniel is just in his head, or an actual external force, capable of committing great evil in this world.

Patrick Schwarzenegger really shines, as the manically maniacal Daniel, reportedly drawing inspiration from Nicholas Cage. He’s less over the top and loud as Cage, but his occasional subtlety suits the performance even more.

What is Real…?
To call this film bizarre would be an understatement, and a gross disservice to what it really is. Perhaps surreally unsettling would be a better description. The whole time, we’re not sure if Luke is just crazy, or if Daniel is an actual supernatural entity.

Even by the ending (which we won’t spoil), can we really trust what we’re seeing as real, given the surreal nature of the rest of the film.  The entire third act is nothing short of spectacularly absurd (in a good way).

The only real voice of reason is Luke’s therapist, who sadly isn’t listened to…

At times, it’s a bit reminiscent of Jacob’s Ladder, Phantasm, and Mandy along with a few elements of Fight Club thrown in there. That said, Daniel Isn’t Real is an interesting enough story to stand on its own. It will undoubtedly be a cult classic in no time!

Daniel Isn’t Real is streaming exclusively on Shudder!

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