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Film / Daniel Isn't Real

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Don't listen to him.
Daniel Isn't Real is a 2019 American Psychological Horror Film, adapted from the novel In This Way I Was Saved, by Brian Deleeuw. The film is directed by Adam Egypt Mortimer, and written by Mortimer and Deleeuw.

The story focuses on troubled college freshman named Luke (Miles Robbins) who, feeling stressed out by school and the need to care for his erratic mother, Claire (Mary Stuart Masterson) manifests the imaginary friend he hasn’t seen since he was a little boy. Daniel (Patrick Schwarzenegger) is everything Luke is not: sexy, bold, and very dangerous, which is why Luke ended up locking Daniel away in his mind all those years ago. But now his alter ego is back, and what begins as a helpful companionship turns into a parasitic exchange.

It had its world premier at the South By Southwest Film Festival in March of 2019, before being picked up for distribution by Metro Goldwyn Films, which released it theatrically in the US on December 6, 2019.


Tropes in this film include:

  • Body Horror: Daniel's method of possessing Luke. His face contorts into a series of appendages similar to tentacles, which latch onto Luke's face and merge with it.
  • Foe Romance Subtext: Daniel is presented as being everything Luke isn't, including suave, smart, and funny. He becomes increasingly possessive of Luke as their relationship continues, invading his personal space and touching him disturbingly. At one point he makes a show of his body to Luke, while Luke is studying for a test. Needing Daniel's help to remember the answers, Daniel removes his shirt seductively to reveal he has written the answers on his nude torso, forcing Luke to oggle him.
  • Not-So-Imaginary Friend: Daniel, who is first believed to be either an imaginary friend or an outright hallucination of Luke's, is actually a malevolent demonic entity who latches onto vulnerable people and forces them to commit acts of violence.
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  • The Shadow Knows: Luke's shadow sometimes distorts into something inhuman, which Cassie includes in her painting of him without first realizing the implications.
  • Taking You with Me: The climax sees Luke jumping from a rooftop, so as to kill himself and stop Daniel from using his possessed body for further violence.