Impossible Monsters (2019)

Director: Nathan Catucci
Starring: Laila Robins, Santino Fontana, Dennis Boutsikaris. USA. 1h 24min

Part of the charm of Impossible Monsters is that it plays with ideas of sleep and dreams without really alluding to many of the schemas behind the expansive theology and science behind this complicated field. Often advertised as a film dealing with nightmare dreams and sleep paralysis, I don’t remember seeing much about it, and instead Impossoble Monsters falls into a rabbit hole of dark sexuality and crime de passion, ideas surrounding the opedious complex and a tutor who gets caught up in the murder of one of his students as the lines begins to blur between reality and a Ken Russellseque dreamworld.

Everyone has nightmares. Most survive.

What starts out as a slow paced drama does eventually turn out to be quite a sensually smoldering suspenseful story and it all kicks off when an ambitious professor fight for his own group and funds to probe into the darker area of the human psyche, his tiny collective meet and talk about their puzzling dreams and note everything down in their dairies for the next meet up. There’s quite a slow pace as each character slowly reveals secrets about their lives and subconscious, the most fascinating is a young beautiful student who works as a dominatrix by night, although she prefers the label of “Sexual Pain Exploration Specialist” and everyone seems to fall under her sexy spell, which even sparks a bit of professional rivalry among the faculty.

“Fantasy, abandoned by reason, produces impossible monsters; united with it, she is the mother of the arts and the origin of marvels”

― Francisco Goya

The dream sequences are what I would have assumed would have made the movie, but they play out as nothing all that special, something trippy would have really pushed this into David Lynch terrain, but in their defense all the typical bad dreams are highlighted included the dreaded losing once teeth.. Nathan Catucci’s movie also skirts around the big names and psychological/scientific factors of sleep paralysis, and sleep paralysis itself, working more on the ideas of the subconscious, there’s only a few piece of art dropped as historical reference, the Nightmare by Henry Fuseli and a few other smaller etchings and pieces mostly by Goya who’s famous quote gives life to the title of the movie, but art does seem to play a larger part in the movie than I had expected and it’s quite encouraging as art generally comes from the subconscious and despite this being set within a university it quickly shifts from academic and science to the realms of what if,s imagination and dreams.

I’m not a noob for theological and expansive narratives and experimental cinema however I found that this movie gets muddy from time to time, and I had to really concentrate hard from time to time, in the end I stopped rewinding, assuming I missed something and just let it play and somehow it goes from mud to sense again. It cascades itself from raunchy sexual tension to very dry and grown up sometimes very quickly and it seems to be too much for it’s actors at times.

As the pressure grows, the sexuality and personal histories are outed, the film really does build and gets under the skin, all previous sins of the movie are finally forgiven in the end, the slow responses, slightly awkward acting and odd camera work all pale against a lush soundtrack, somewhere between a Resident Evil background music to There Will be Blood (2007) long winding stings, sometimes overplayed, but overall it’s all creepy and emotive addition to a moving film that has a questionable ending, did you figure it out?


Rating 4/10

RelatedAltered states (1980), Videodrome (1983), Deep Dark (2015)
Lists – Cinema Dreamscapes, Paintings in Movies Vol 1
Article – How dreams are portrayed in movies

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