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Daniel Isn't Real (2019)

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A troubled college freshman, Luke, suffers a violent family trauma and resurrects his childhood imaginary friend Daniel to help him cope.


Brian DeLeeuw (novel), Brian DeLeeuw | 1 more credit »
302 ( 3,423)
5 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Miles Robbins ... Luke
Patrick Schwarzenegger ... Daniel
Sasha Lane ... Cassie
Mary Stuart Masterson ... Claire
Hannah Marks ... Sophie
Chukwudi Iwuji ... Braun
Peter McRobbie ... Percy Thigpen
Andrew Bridges ... Richard
Griffin Robert Faulkner Griffin Robert Faulkner ... Young Luke
Nathan Chandler Reid ... Young Daniel (as Nathan Reid)
Daniel Marconi Daniel Marconi ... John Thigpen
Chase Sui Wonders ... Makayla
Rosanne Ma Rosanne Ma ... Professor Abelard
Katie Chang ... Barista
Michael Cuomo ... James


When Luke decided to leave his mother's home and face emancipation, he never thought it would be so complicated. His social awkwardness and his diverse traumas will make him seek the aid of an old buddy: his imaginary childhood friend Daniel, who is now a self-confident, manipulative young man. Daniel will start to help Luke, but his intentions will soon prove to be somewhat more sinister. Written by Sitges Film Festival

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From the Producers of 'Mandy'









Release Date:

6 December 2019 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Daniel Isn't Real See more »

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User Reviews

Good, But Disappointing
11 October 2019 | by TheMovieDoctorfulSee all my reviews

4 years after his underrated Horror masterpiece Some Kind of Hate (which I will absolutely be reviewing at some point), Adam Egypt Mortimer returns to the Horror genre with Daniel Isn't Real. The bad news is that the film is a disappointment. The good news is that it's still good and more than proves Mortimer has serious staying power in the genre. It's certainly one of the better Horror movies released this year.

A big piece of why this film doesn't work as well as its predecessor is its love story. While the central romance in Some Kind of Hate seemed natural and genuinely heartfelt, here it feels more like a rushed after thought than anything. The ending wants to speak to the redemptive power of love, but the film never convinces us of the passion between Luke and Cassie that would inspire that kind of power. I buy the lust between the two, certainly, but not the love.

That brings us to another major problem with the film; the ending. On top of feeling extremely anti-climactic (I was genuinely stunned when the credits rolled), it was more confusing than anything and just leaves me with more questions than I already had.

Patrick Schwarzenegger is an actor that hasn't really made a lot of noise previously, but this is without a doubt the performance of his career. As Daniel, he's hilarious, charming, charismatic and occasionally rather chilling. He completely steals the show, reminding me a lot of a young Bill Skarsgard and proving that he has quite a promising career ahead of him playing wily villains. The rest of the cast does an adequate job, but this is clearly Schwarzenegger's movie first and foremost. I found myself smiling at almost all of his appearances.

The directing is gorgeous as well. With its psychedelic, dreamlike usage of pinks, reds and yellows against an eerie fog, you can almost consider this the plucky younger brother of Mandy. Credit should also be given to the astounding practical effects that give life to the film's stunning and horrific cosmic demons. The demon designs here are truly inventive and darkly gorgeous, reminiscent of something out of a Neil Gaiman comic.

While the relationship between Luke and his girlfriend Cassie doesn't work, the relationship between Luke and his mother surprisingly made up for the lack of heart in the romance. I could absolutely buy them as mother and son and not a second goes by between them where you can't feel the concern for each other's safety between the two. There are shockingly relatable moments between the two and I'm not merely talking about the wholesome ones. Miles Robbins and Mary Stuart Robinson do a wonderful job conveying an odd juxtaposition of loving closeness and expansive distance between their characters that's all too real for many parents and their children. It's the kind of dynamic rarely seen on screen between mothers and sons and it's representation is fairly important.

Mortimer balances Horror and comedy wonderfully in Some Kind of Hate and does so again here. The comedic timing of the cast is absolutely perfect, just as the gruesomeness and bizarre nature of the scares is truly haunting. Finding the right balance between Horror and comedy can prove a challenge for a lot of films, but this is something that Daniel Isn't Real soars at.

In the end, while Daniel Isn't Real isn't anywhere near where I was hoping it to be, it's still a damn good movie and certainly one of the better Horror movies of 2019.

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