Nightwatch: Demons are Forever Poster

Nightwatch: Demons Are Forever (2023) Review

Thirty years after the original Nightwatch and twenty-seven years after the American remake, writer/director Ole Bornedal returns, rather literally, to the scene of the crime with Nightwatch: Demons Are Forever, a standalone sequel to the original Danish film.

Martin (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, My Name Is Modesty: A Modesty Blaise Adventure, Shot Caller) survived the events of the first film and the suicide of his wife Kalinka. It’s taken its toll though, he’s dependent on prescription drugs to get through the day, and he’s even less likeable than he was back then. He also has a daughter, Emma, played by the director’s daughter Fanny Leander Bornedal (Munch, Journal 64) who is in med school.

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Early in the film, needing money, she takes her father’s old job, night watchman, or ward clerk as it’s called now, at the morgue. As she’s being shown around before her first shift, she finds out that Wörmer (Ulf Pilgaard, Body Switch, All I Want for Christmas: The Magic Time Machine) wasn’t killed, he’s alive blind and in a coma at a nearby asylum. She becomes determined to see him. If that sounds like a really bad idea, that’s because it is.

Bornedal seems to have taken some inspiration from recent slashers like Scream VI and Halloween Ends, dealing with the notion of trauma and how it hangs over people, never letting them fully move on, and even affecting other generations. In a rather clichéd bit of plotting, Emma was the one who found her mother’s body after she hung herself, and carries her own scars from that.

And just like the evil of Michael Myers doesn’t die, neither does Wörmer’s. Emma’s visit rouses him from his comatose condition and, with the help of another inmate, Bent (Casper Kjær Jensen, Antboy 3, The Sommerdahl Murders), he’s soon out and looking to kill Emma and anyone who survived his original rampage, starting with Emma’s Godmother Lotte (Vibeke Hastrup, The Substitute, Everything Will Change), which in turn brings Jens (Kim Bodnia, One Day in the Life of Noah Piugattuk, Pusher) back from Thailand for Nightwatch: Demons are Forever’s final showdown.

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Running a hair under two hours, Nightwatch: Demons Are Forever is a very deliberately paced, slow burn of a film that’s nearly half over before the first killing takes place and isn’t in too much of a hurry to get to the next one. Thankfully, the script stays interesting most of the time, though some of the scenes of Emma and her friends acting like stereotypical cinematic college students are pretty dire.

Thankfully, this is kept to a minimum and the script rarely goes off course and builds up a considerable amount of tension by the last half hour. In that aspect, Nightwatch: Demons Are Forever is much more of a mystery thriller than a horror film, and if not for the last half hour I’d call it just that. As it stands, it’s still something of a borderline case As it stands, it’s still something of a borderline case that could as easily go in the direction of Halloween 2 or X-Ray in the final minutes or in the direction of Inoperable or Disquiet.

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However, you want to classify it though, this is a film that’s better than a decades later sequel has a right to be. The mix of returning characters and new faces works well, helped by some good performances, especially Fanny Leander Bornedal who shows she wasn’t just cast because of her looks or who the director was. It’s also to the cast’s credit that the various revelations and misdirections in the final act work as well as they do.

Overall, Nightwatch: Demons Are Forever is an above average film with some solid subtext about trauma, guilt and trying to get out from under it. The film does have its missteps, from the fairly pointless inclusion of a couple of characters to a gaffe where the emblem on a vehicle steering wheel says VW, but an exterior shot reveals it to be a Citroën, but they’re minor issues in an otherwise worthy bit of entertainment.

Nightwatch: Demons Are Forever is currently streaming on Shudder and will probably turn up on some of AMC’s other streaming services in the next couple of months as well.

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