Dir. Daniel Cormack. U.K. 2008. 2 ½ minutes.

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In the Est Training which was very popular in the 1970s and early 80s, there was a process which was called the “Danger Process” in which the trainees were asked to lie on the floor and pretend that they were afraid of everyone else in the room. As they began to act it out, the fear became real and they became convinced that, in order to survive, they had to be afraid of everyone in the room. It was only afterwards when they realized that everyone else was just as afraid of them that the joke became obvious and all they could do was laugh.

This sort of jumping to faulty conclusions about people's motives is demonstrated in Daniel Cormack's short film Nightwalking, a work that dramatizes, in the space of two and a half minutes, how irrational fear often pervades our society and prevents communication, relationship, and connection.  As the film opens, a young woman (Raquel Cassidy), taking a short cut home late at night in an unidentified city, hears the footsteps of a man (Lloyd Woolf) walking behind her and concludes that he is a rapist or killer. In a voice-over, we hear the woman's thoughts as her panic increases with each quickened step. 

Finally turning around, she does not see the man but only a cell phone lying on the ground. The focus then shifts back to the beginning and we now hear the thoughts of the young man. Realizing that the woman walking in front of him is afraid, he knows that he presents no danger but is uncertain how to inform her of that. He tries to overtake her but she speeds up to the point where all he can do is follow. He finally decides on the idea to call him mother on his cell phone, an action that she will clearly realize how she has mistaken his identity since no rapist or serial killer would pause in mid-pursuit to call his mom. 

Nightwalking is a black comedy, a horror film, and an incisive comment on today's culture that has a surprise twist ending which, if revealed, would spoil your enjoyment of the film. Needless to say, the director Daniel Cormack has chalked up another solid work that follows in the path of his earlier films, A Fitting Tribute and Amelia and Michael, perfect examples of films that have a great deal to say about contemporary life and do so in a brief period of time. Some long-winded directors might derive a lesson from that.


Howard Schumann

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