Daniel Isn’t Real – USA, 2019 – overview

Daniel Isn’t Real is a 2019 American psychological thriller feature film directed by Adam Egypt Mortimer (HolidaysSome Kind of Hate) from a screenplay co-written with Brian DeLeeuw, based on the latter’s novel. The SpectreVision movie stars Patrick Schwarzenegger, Miles Robbins, Sasha Lane, Hannah Marks and Mary Stuart Masterson.


The movie will be released by Samuel Goldwyn Films and Shudder in theaters and On Demand and Digital from December 6, 2019.


Traumatised eight-year-old Luke invents an imaginary friend named Daniel who leads them both into a world of fantasy and imagination. After Daniel tricks Luke into doing something terrible, Luke is forced to lock him away.

Twelve years later, Luke brings Daniel back – and he now appears as a charming, manipulative young man with a terrifying secret agenda…


“Compelling performances from the entire and clearly game cast escalate the believability of Daniel Isn’t Real […] Echoes of the creeping, disassociative paranoia of Rosemary’s Baby and The Tenant-era Polanski run throughout the film but Daniel Isn’t Real is very much its own distinct fever dream of chimerical unease. Highly recommended.” Marc Savlov, The Austin Chronicle

“For all of its fantastic themes and imagery, the script doesn’t pulsate with the same passionate and baleful beat. However, Daniel Isn’t Real tackles mentally and emotionally difficult subject matter with a monstrous amount of talent and employs an empathetic core as its guiding light through the darkness.” Marisa Mirabal, Birth. Movies. Death.

Daniel Isn’t Real is a trip, but it’s a trip you’ll want to take. An exceptional second feature from Mortimer, the film boasts two phenomenal lead performances from Robbins and Schwarzenegger, as well as some impressive effects and set design.” Trace Thurman, Bloody Disgusting

“It examines challenging questions about how we cope with dark impulses and create false faces to conceal less appealing aspects of our identities. Always at the center of this subtext, Daniel Isn’t Real accomplishes its objectives while remaining a mesmeric movie where fairy tale fantasy morphs into chilling cosmic horror.” Ian Sedensky, Culture Crypt

“An unflinching examination of what can happen when the id, the ego, and the super-ego are all at war with each other, Daniel Isn’t Real is a provocative slice of psychological horror that takes a decidedly left turn in the last 20 minutes or so once we see Luke beginning to slip away and Daniel take over, and for some viewers, it will probably be a make-or-break moment.” Heather Wixson, Daily Dead

“The full journey of Daniel Isn’t Real is one well worth undertaking. There are some stumbles here and there but that doesn’t stop the film from being an intoxicating and thrilling time, complete with unsettling visuals and genuine scares.” Jonathan Barkan, Dread Central

” …a story that succeeds despite its obviousness, a coming-of-age fable about schizophrenia and the pull of mental illness. The latter can be a tricky thing to visualize, but Mortimer navigates it well, finding a unique physical language that mimics the mind of a person steeped in mania. Luke’s head is full of hallways drenched in neon-purple light and haunted by monsters like look like something out of Hellraiser.” Lindsey Romain, Nerdist

” …some of the acting could’ve used a bit of polish, but nothing terribly distracting, and the leads did their jobs well. Daniel Isn’t Real is the product of a rare kind of voice in genre cinema. In these days where it seems like new horror movies are a dime a dozen, it’s wonderful to get something of substance that genuinely surprises, and this is it.” J Hurtado, Screen Anarchy

“You really understand how scary it is to lose control of your actions and your foggy mental state to a thing you can’t control, and doubly how terrifying it is to have that built into your DNA through no fault of your own. But the resolution that Mortimer comes to, despite what the film thinks it has done to earn that conclusion narrative-wise, is an offensive and wrong-headed one…” Nick Johnston, Vanyaland

” …strong second feature for director Adam Egypt Mortimer centers on an unhappy youth whose childhood “imaginary friend” returns to active duty, to initially helpful ends that all too soon turn malevolent and destructive. Spectrevision’s stylishly crafted psychological horror thriller has enough twists and finesse to attract favorable attention beyond genre bounds…” Dennis Harvey, Variety


Daniel Isn’t Real premiered at the SXSW film festival on March 9, 2019.

Cast and characters:

  • Hannah Marks … Sophie
  • Sasha Lane … TBC
  • Patrick Schwarzenegger … Daniel
  • Miles Robbins … Luke
  • Faith Logan … Party Goer
  • Jacqueline Honulik … Coffee Shop Girl
  • Katie Chang … TBC
  • Lynn Marocola … FDNY Paramedic
  • Chukwudi Iwuji … Dr. Cornelius Braun
  • Jamar Greene … Campus Security Guard
  • Cara Ronzetti … Joelle
  • Michael Cuomo … James
  • Andrew Bridges … Richard
  • Madeleine Mfuru … Cop
  • Andrew Ayala … Waterfront security guard
  • Nathan Chandler Reid … Young Daniel
  • Daniel Marconi … John Thigpen
  • Rosanne Ma … Professor Abelard
  • Roger Brenner … FDNY / Emt (uncredited)

Producers: Daniel Noah, Josh C. Waller, Lisa Whalen, Elijah Wood
Cinematographer: Lyle Vincent
Editor: Brett W. Bachman
Production Designer: Kaet McAnneny

96 minutes


Holidays – USA, 2016

Some Kind of Hate – USA, 2015

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