Nightmare Code is part of the Techno Horror genre that takes aim at the dangers of AI or technological dependancy while captivating the audience with unnerving tension balanced with twitch style editing.
The Techno Horror genre flourished in the early nineties with movies like Lawnmower Man or franchises like Terminator or Cyborg. However, due to budget restraints or poor execution the genre quickly went dormant. After all, this was a genre where it was ok to hit stop before the final act. Twenty years later, society has AI on the horizon and is struggling with its addiction to technology. So, it shouldn’t be a surprise the Techno Horror genre is being revitalized. Nightmare Code is one of the newest additions to the genre.
Largely, it’s shot and edited together, and using fixed camera perspectives giving us the illusion of watching everything through security cameras or webcams. Often, each scene cycles through a four-panel grid giving the audience a lot of information to digest. The pacing of these scenes and edits keeps our eyes glued to the screen absorbing every detail looking for clues. In addition, the panels are often out of chronological sequence with one another. The camera will also focus on protagonists and points of interests. This creates the unsettling revelation that everything we’re seeing is subjective, and someone or something is behind our monitor’s controls. This is much similar to My Little Eye where the audience becomes voyeurs while trying to unravel the who-done-it mystery.
Because of the unforgiving nature of the camera style, it’s unfair to assess the actors’ performances. There are times that the acting seems awkward or comical because of the camera’s high-low direction. On the other hand, much of the script’s character development is done through philosophical dialogue, which can go from thought provoking to superfluous in a single breath. That isn’t to say all the characters aren’t well done. This movie provided the antagonist with an original and very eery character arc. One of the highlights of the film was when it put us in the POV of the antagonist, Foster, via techno sunglasses and is able to provide a jaded understanding for the character.
The movie juggled a lot of paranoid themes against technology and it struggled to focus on just one. However, it decided to settle upon society’s desire to become immortalized through our technological avatars and the willingness to sacrifice our real lives and our connection to everyone around us. Although Nightmare Code’s final act stumbled with pacing, struggled with its lofty idea, and broke its camera style, it was able to push the audience to a satisfactory finish.