Capsule Review: Nightwatch: Demons Are Forever (2024) – A Familiar but Reasonably Effective Horror-Thriller Sequel to Ole Bornedal’s 1994 Hit

Ole Bornedal’s 1994 hit Danish horror thriller Nightwatch — originally titled Nattevagten — is the kind of one-off that doesn’t need a sequel. He did, however, return with an English-language remake three years later, boasting additional screenwriting input from Steven Soderbergh and a familiar cast, namely Ewan McGregor and Nick Nolte. I have watched both movies but surprisingly, I enjoyed the remake better than the creepy but ponderous original, thanks to a more streamlined storytelling and above-average acting performances.

Thirty years after the 1994 original, Bornedal returns with an unlikely sequel and for a brief recap, law student and night watchman Martin (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and his girlfriend, Kalinka (Sofie Gråbøl) survived the night at the Forensic Medicine Institute after Martin’s buddy, Jens (Kim Bodnia) fired a few shots against the psycho killer Wörmer (Ulf Pilgaard).

Well, it turns out that Wörmer is still alive but becomes blind and confined in a psychiatric ward. Martin may have been happily married to Kalinka the last time we saw him at the end of the first movie but he’s now looking depressed. He has an adult daughter named Emma (Fanny Leander Bornedal, daughter of Ole), who is a medical student while his wife already died by suicide. He also couldn’t shake off the past trauma that had consumed him inside out.

Soon, Emma takes on a nightwatch job at the same Forensic Medicine Institute that her dad used to work there. It’s just a matter of time before the killing starts, suggesting there’s a copycat murderer out there and it’s all back to the familiar nightmare.

Nightwatch: Demons Are Forever gets off to a creepy start in the interrogation room involving a young mental patient played by Casper Kjær Jensen. I’m glad Bornedal doesn’t waste much time adding in unnecessary fillers like his 1994 original (among them is the church scene revolving around Martin, Jens and the latter’s girlfriend, Lotte). The introduction of Martin’s feisty daughter, Emma is a nice addition and it helps that Bornedal brings out the best in Fanny Leander’s performance. He also does a decent job establishing the strained relationship between her and her dad.

Bornedal’s screenplay does contain a few clichéd moments that stick to the conventional psychological-thriller tropes. The mystery surrounding the killer’s identity and motivation may have been convoluted at times. But credits go to the director’s technical know-how in staging effective dread-inducing set pieces, even as simple as the slow, retractable sound of a box cutter used by the new serial killer echoing in the background.

Likewise, he doesn’t shy away from graphic violence like how a victim gets the throat slit and the blood oozes out immediately from the wound. Lasse Frank Johannessen’s atmospheric cinematography is put to good use, particularly in the cold and clinical setting of the Forensic Medicine Institute. Then, there’s the final third act as Bornedal ratchets up the tension with a thrilling and suspenseful series of cat and mouse chases inside the facility.

Nightwatch: Demons Are Forever is currently streaming on Shudder.