DANIEL ISN’T REAL (2019) Reviews and overview


‘From the producers of Mandy’

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…


Daniel Isn’t Real isn’t the movie manna from heaven some feverish festival reviews made it out to be. The buzz from fest showings and the advance PR hype led to high a expectation that was always going to be difficult to live up to. Very limited publicity shots (why? having just the same couple of images appear all over the internet is hardly going to pique people’s interest) and a long-held back trailer both increased the sense that this was perhaps just a flash in a pan or maybe a wonderful experience we simply can’t be allowed to share… yet.

Beyond the hype, Daniel Isn’t Real is a very stylishly made, incredibly involving and fascinating film that only slightly deviates from its messed-up mind-f*ck of a premise. For the first two-thirds it’s full on and very enjoyable. Unfortunately, in the latter stages the well-developed plot has nowhere left to go and that’s a slight shame. That said, Daniel Isn’t Real is definitely worth a visit to a theatrical showing and then maybe a second look at home. He isn’t real, twice! Go for it.

Adrian J Smith, MOVIES & MANIA

Other reviews:

“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.” 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.” 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.” 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.” 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.” 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.” Dread Central

“There are lots of ideas at play here, and many clear influences, but the end gets a little crowded and messy. The shift from reality to the supernatural is a little jarring, and not particularly explained, and the climax feels inevitable. Visually the film is impressive and there are some nightmarish moments but it’s not quite the mind-bender it wants to be.” Entertainment Focus

“Even when it is casting a spotlight on the darker corners of the world, it’s still told from a caring perspective that delves into mental illness and imagination. It’s a masterclass in storytelling and intention. It’s also scary as hell.” Horror Film Critic

“Robbins’ portrayal of a smart, intensely troubled, complex protagonist leads a strong cast: Masterson is seen in movies far too rarely while Schwarzenegger has a lot of fun in the potentially problematic role of the exhibitionist psycho who isn’t real. Sasha Lane confirms the considerable promise she showed in Andrea Arnold’s American Honey as Luke’s artistic girlfriend.” Horrorscreams Videovault

“With a storyline that reminded me a bit of Christopher Fowler’s novel Spanky (in a good way), Adam Egypt Mortimer’s movie is a delicious, mind-bending Boschian melodrama that provides plenty of nightmarish imagery along with its is-he-or-isn’t-he-mad plot.” House of Mortal Cinema


” …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.” 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.” 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…” 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…” 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 … Doctor 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)

Technical details:

96 minutes

Disclaimer: This website includes affiliate links to Amazon and as an Amazon Associate the owner of this website earns a very minuscule amount from qualifying purchases.