Portraying mental health on screen has been seen throughout film history, but increasingly this subject matter has been used more and more within the genre of horror. As anyone who suffers from mental health knows, when you are in the grips of a disease like depression, anxiety, bipolar, schizophrenia or otherwise it is like a hellish nightmare that offers no form of escapism from the reality that consumes you. Which is why horror is the perfect genre to be manipulated into manifesting those feelings into something that is more relatable. Director Adam Egypt Mortimer delivers a poignant yet horrifying story with his psychological horror film Daniel Isn’t Real.
As a young boy, Luke is witness to a traumatic event; after a mass shooting in a restaurant Luke happens to walk by and see the dead attacker lying dead and bloody on the sidewalk having been shot by the Police. He walks to the park to play and quickly makes friends with another young boy named Daniel. The problem is that Daniel is merely a figment of Luke’s imagination, perhaps conjured up to deal with the distressing scenes of violence he has witnessed. After an incident with his mother, they metaphorically lock Daniel in a dollhouse. As a teenage boy studying at University, Luke returns to his childhood home, only to be reunited with Daniel who has become more deranged and malicious after years without his best friend.