Remember those tech movies where the character was just weak sauce? Like Neo from the Matrix or just about the every character from the movie Hackers? Or maybe a character that was overbearing and frightful, like HAL from 2001. Well, thankfully Nightmare Code falls in to the later of those two categories.
The geeks were joined by Mark Netter, director and co-writer of Nightmare Code. Nightmare Code has one of those characters, ROPER, that is in our opinion more frightening than HAL, quite possibly because it is a bit closer to the reality we already live in.
What is Nightmare Code?
Nightmare Code is the winner of the Philip K Dick Sci-Fi Film Festival. Nightmare Code is suspense thriller about a behavior “modification” system. Just writing behavior “modification” should give you an idea of just how bad things are going to go for the people involved. Having everything from a workplace shooting, to workplace sex, to other workplace chicanery, this one may hit close to home (without the violence part) for some our techie listeners. The main character, played by Andrew J West of Walking Dead fame, plays a brilliant and soon-to-be troubled programmer brought in to finish the work of another, more recently “removed” programmer. We’ll let you listen to the broadcast for more details 🙂
Just watch the trailer, you’ll be hooked!
For more information on Nightmare Code visit their website: https://www.nightmare-code.com/
You can watch Nightmare Code on your favorite VOD platform and on Amazon!
Some of the questions from the audience are answered here by Mark Netter himself:
Answer: Cotton doesn’t hate the woman who attacked him – she’s not on his hit list because she never did him wrong in business. He only kills the OptDex executives who were lying to him and taking his baby (ROPER) away. However, as the story progresses and ROPER starts making others into its weapon, its scruples appear to loosen for the worse.
Answer: ROPER was so named for “roping in” all the video in the wi-fi/network area. However, it was fitted with the acronym, “Rationale, Operative Psychology, & Emotion Recognizer” after the fact. Some viewers have also pointed out that ROPER “ropes in” various characters for its nefarious purposes.
Answer: We would love to have someone approach us to make a NIGHTMARE CODE video game! It’s been on our minds, as we actually shot all the office scenes over seven weekends in a videogame development studio, and most of our funding came from that company, the now-defunct Spark Unlimited, one of two studios that build the first CALL OF DUTY.
Answer: That is a great question and one that gives us some very cool ideas if we’re able to extend NIGHTMARE CODE with a series or sequel. As far as recognizing emotions, ROPER is continually increasing in accuracy, so it’d be extremely tough. ROPER not only analyzes facial expressions, but if you notice in the lower right corner of the ROPER interface, it is analyzing voice as well, which is even harder for an individual to control. Maybe a masterful actor like Daniel Day Lewis or Meryl Streep could give ROPER a run for its money!
Answer: This is a great question with two different answers. One is what’s in NIGHTMARE CODE and the other is what was cut out in the making of the movie. I’ll answer both while trying to avoid spoilers.
In the film itself, like in most “monster” movies, ROPER grows in the strength of its capabilities, which here include both a form of behavior modification (mind control) and its replication of reality. Of course, it has its behavior recognition ability throughout, but we also see in the massacre sequence that the way it reads behavior is a mirror of its creator’s psyche – the same likes/dislikes of master programmer Foster Cotton.
With the behavior modification, when it first flashes Brett with the amber glow Brett is able is look away in time. He’s dazed but not controlled. Viewers of the completed film will also see how this power has the potential to expand exponentially to affect more than one person at a time.
With the replication of reality, as the story progresses ROPER clearly becomes better at it. Just watch the computerized “static” quad frames that checkerboard the film. Each one is a replication of another quad frame on screen at the very same time, but in the beginning of NIGHTMARE CODE it’s hard to tell as the static is very dense. Over the course of the film the static frames become clearer and clearer, and this expertise ROPER develops has a significant impact towards the end of the film. And he shows the ability to fabricate something extraordinary about 2/3 of the way through.
We originally gave ROPER the ability to affect the physical world by closing Brett’s laptop computer, but cut those scenes from the final film as they seemed to confuse viewers about ROPER’s abilities. We also planned to have Cotton’s “ghost” show up on the surveillance cam, leading Brett to run through the office trying to chase down the ghost, but that also felt like a distraction.
We envision future iterations where ROPER’s powers, particularly of behavior modification, could become increasingly subtle and specific – in NIGHTMARE CODE it’s more of a sledgehammer but could eventually become a scalpel!
Answer: HAL has the grandfather advantage – he was made first and can run a spaceship. However, ROPER can control human minds, so it could conceivably have its human agents destroy HAL. Advantage: ROPER.
Answer: We have our own ideas but wanted to leave some of this up to the imagination of our viewers. But what appears might happen is that somehow ROPER is able to absorb the “souls” of the programmers closest to it, in a manner similar to what Nora describes to Brett – that the soul is a form of energy and, as such, could potentially be conducted into an object or, more likely, an electronic device.
Answer: We are working hard to get it to the right people who can help us finance and cast it in the manner it deserves. ALL THE WAY DOWN is a twist-filled, female-driven noir thriller – kind of a female DELIVERANCE crossed with a film noir classic like OUT OF THE PAST. We can’t wait to make it and get it out to everyone who enjoyed the suspense and head-games in NIGHTMARE CODE!
Answer: We have not cast yet but I can tell you the main character is ex-military, having left the service due to an injustice, now a mom with a husband overseas, a special needs child and a troubled younger sister living with her – and going off her meds. Along with her best friend from the Army and her sister’s shrink, they enter into a blackmail scheme, against a very bad man, that spirals into kidnapping, murder and betrayal It’s called ALL THE WAY DOWN.
Answer: That’s a great question – and one for any potential sequel or series! There must be a way…right? Does NIGHTMARE CODE hint at the possibility of appealing to the most innermost part of someone’s personality – their heart – in order to alter ROPER’s control?
Answer: Our Line Producer knew Mei Melançon (who plays Nora Huntsman) and Mei was friends with Andrew J. West (Brett Desmond), recommending him as right for the role. Almost all the other actors came through Co-Producer Jamie Wollrab, a noted acting coach and director himself here in Los Angeles. Two roles, Brett’s darling daughter played by Isabella Cuda, and the lovely Radova played by Tonya Kay, came from open casting calls on a widely used online casting services.
I’m happy to say that nearly every member of cast and crew came from some sort of referral, making for a warm and committed filmmaking family.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The first complete work by director Mark Netter and co-writer and co-executive producer M J Rotondi is a “Drop the Keyboard, I’m out” success. Normally one would expect a smaller budget film to skimp on detail, and substitute blood spatter for material, however this absolutely was not the case with Nightmare_Code. The stunning attention to even the smallest detail made this film as good as anything you’d see out of big Hollywood, and the best part (wait for it!): It’s a terrific, multifaceted story! Let me begin by writing I would not classify this as horror. It is much more of a thriller / suspense movie. It has a few horror elements to it, but it certainly is not blood and gore by any stretch of the imagination or anything akin to a “slasher” type movie. If you love thrillers and suspense this movie is for you. If you are looking for Jason XXXIV: Jason kills the Matrix you’re probably off base.
A prima facie look at the movie will tell you that it centers around ROPER, a computer AI that runs amok. What is one of the many wonders of this movie is that the story really is the human one, and not the story of ROPER. ROPER more acts as a gravitational point which the other characters revolve around.
For much of the movie, we are viewing the world through the eyes of the artificial intelligence, ROPER, and the screen is split into 4 distinct quadrants, like looking at surveillance cam footage. The sound team deftly moves the sound appropriately to each area of the screen by moving the sound through the 5.1 or Stereo fields so you aren’t left fighting to figure out which “screen” to watch. Just relax and let the sound guide you and you’ll follow along just fine.
Foster Cotton, played by Steve Wozniak type Googy Gress, and his team are working on an artificial intelligence surveillance system that reads emotions and state of mind by tracking facial movements, body positions etc and then tries (with gaining accuracy) to predict the target subject’s next behavior. Unfortunately, Googy for reasons later revealed comes unhinged and massacres his fellow co-workers. The sequence/footage of the killings, when revealed, is downright disturbing due to the artful way the entire movie is put together. You feel like you are witnessing a workplace shooting first hand and there is nothing you can do but watch.
When the carnage is over, it is left to the reboot team to finish the project. Enter Brett Desmond played by Andrew J West of Walking Dead infamy, and Nora Hunstman played by Mei Melançon and the rest of the crew. The underpants gnomes are off to work! (South Park reference). Working tirelessly, with Desmond both working and sleeping on site, the group tries to close out bugs and finish the project but for some reason, they can’t seem to just get it over the hump and ready to ship.
Working in the technology world myself, I was stunned how close to reality this was in many ways. Of course film makers take liberties, however the idea of working all the time, facing drop dead dates, and doing the impossible as an everyday course of life nearly sent me into post traumatic stress from my days sitting and working with a team much like the group Netter and Rotondi have put together.
The little details, like the Unix shells on the screens, the obsolete books on the table, and the constant jumpiness of the characters themselves can be found in any tech company still today.
Stress points and boil overs, with a constantly menacing AI stirring the pot lead the characters down some pretty dark holes. When the characters do make mistakes, even ones they shouldn’t, you feel sorry for them. You “understand” why they do the things they do, even if you know they are wrong. This is the very human piece of the story. You are meant to have little sympathy when the AI goes wrong. Humanity, is a purely human trait, and left for humans.
I will close out by writing: Nightmare_Code is a must see if you enjoyed movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey. ROPER is not as overwhelming as HAL but quite frankly, that makes it more nefarious. The question was posed to me, is the writer in the code or is the code in the writer, and I think this movie sort of answers that question in it’s own interpretation. I personally thought this was a great movie and have already seen it twice. I will certainly see it a third time.