In an interview with AFI, Bornhak notably confessed, “There are plenty of filmmakers I truly adore. But none of their films have been a direct influence on DER NACHTMAHR. At least I was not aware of that while I was working on this film. Looking back at DER NACHTMAHR, I can see some influences from E.T., which was a film I saw when I was a kid. Some say DER NACHTMAHR is like E.T. on acid. SPRING BREAKERS and IT FOLLOWS came out when we already had picture lock in the editing room, and I haven’t even seen IT FOLLOWS yet. My greatest filmmaker role models are David Lynch, Gaspar Noé, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Werner Herzog, Chris Cunningham and Stanley Kubrick.” In the same interview, the auteur would also reveal that he came up with the idea for the fetus monster long before he ever decided to create a film centering around said creature. In that sense, Bornhak follows in the footsteps of his hero David Lynch in terms of taking an incremental approach to filmmaking that involves obsessing over certain single ideas and images that ultimately act as a genesis to a more intricate cinematic creation (for example, Blue Velvet was sired from a number of ideas, including Lynch's obsession with spying on a girl while hiding in her closet).
Apparently borrowing its antiquated Teutonic title from the 1781 oil painting of the same name by Swiss artist Johann Heinrich Füssli (1741-1825) that features a demonic apelike incubus crouched on the chest of a beauteous young woman in a deep sleep, Der Nachtmahr is also interesting in the sense that it is a hopelessly modern take on Germany’s great history of dark romanticism. Indeed, if Teutonic Art Nouveau painter Franz Ritter von Stuck had grown up in modern times and developed a hedonistic obsession with teenage flesh, shitty vacuous rave music, and designer drugs, he might direct a film like Bornhak's.
When Monika—a loudmouthed Asian that seems to be the most domineering of the thickheaded threesome—dares to make a .GIF of Tina transferring into an especially grotesque fetus, the protagonist is immediately disturbed and demands that her friend immediately delete the photo, as if she has a premonition of things to come. When they finally arrive at the party, Tina gets drunk, pops some pills (assumedly ecstasy), and then gets all moody and broody about a dopey dork rocker named Adam (‘Wilson Gonzalez’ Ochsenknecht) that she has an unhealthy crush on. Unfortunately for Tina, an aggressive negress also has a crush on Adam, but all of the teens seem to be too lost and immature to main a serious relationship and are barely even able to communicate with one another in any meaningful way, hence their love of mindless rave parties. Unfortunately, Tina will soon have much more serious and morbid things on her mind. Indeed, upon taking a piss in the middle of a street and flashing her teenage twat, Tina becomes horrified when the fetus she saw from school suddenly moves though a bush after a trail of her urine hits the creature. Somewhat predictably, things only get weirder from there, as Tina is soon plowed down by a very fast sportscar car while she is picking up a necklace with an occult-like medallion that she dropped in the middle of the street. Considering Tina should have been killed but is depicted in the next scene merely lying in the street as if she got too drunk and passed out, the film only gets more convoluted from there as Tina’s mind begins to deteriorate and the fine line between reality and nightmare is ripped to shreds. From there, Tina finds herself increasingly haunted by the mutant fetus, who she eventually becomes extremely close to in a truly transcendental way.
While one could argue that National Socialism was a reemergence of the repressed Germanic god Wotan, the fetus in Bornhak's film makes for an even more interesting archetype representing Aryan fertility, as if it an expression of repressed maternity in an ungodly age of philosemitic Americanism, abortion-on-demand feminism, neo-liberalism, and cultural Marxisism where motherhood is frowned upon and seen as anachronistic and unprogressive while soulless sexual promiscuity and miscegenation seen as has ‘hip’ and ‘progressive.’ Undoubtedly, the Teutonic collective unconscious is sick and repressed and heroine Tina’s arguable involuntary date with ancestral memory is a blessing in disguise. Needless to say, it is only natural and exceedingly fitting that the heroine’s nemesis is a nasty negress who, as a racial alien, naturally lacks the genetic capacity for encountering such archetypes (after all, were goofy kraut turd Wilson Gonzalez to have a child with a negress, it would indubitably be more horrifying than the fetus in the film, but I digress). Interestingly, the grotesque fetus in Der Nachtmahr looks like it could have been one of the ghouls featured in Franz von Stuck's classic 1889 painting ‘Wild Chase,’ which is notable for featuring a prophetic Hitler-esque Wotan on horseback.
Notably, in an interview with the American Film Institute, auteur Bornhak revealed that he always intended Der Nachtmahr to be a film that was open to interpretation, stating, “There is a lot of guessing and discussing what the creature stands for, or what it symbolizes. Some say it’s an incarnation of a symbol of bulimia (fat belly, Tina throws up, it is constantly eating, Tina is feeding him junk food, etc.); some others see the fear of an abortion or an involuntary pregnancy. Some think it represents Hades, the god who guides the living to the realm of the dead. It was always important to me to keep the interpretation open to the audience so everybody could come up with their own interpretation. For me, the creature was always something that appears between two different worlds. He is like a doorman, like a Fata Morgana that appears in the space between the ground and hot air. He never sleeps but at the same time he never seems to be really awake.” Of course, as Jung revealed in regard to his belief that Friedrich Nietzsche was under the subconscious influence of Wotan despite his lack of familiarity with Wotan, “Nietzsche‘s case is certainly a peculiar one. He had no knowledge of Germanic literature; he discovered the “cultural Philistine”; and the announcement that “God is dead” led to Zarathustra’s meeting with an unknown god in unexpected form, who approached him sometimes as an enemy and sometimes disguised as Zarathustra himself. Zarathustra, too, was a soothsayer, a magician, and the storm-wind...” Personally, I like to think that Bornhak had a sort of atavistic awakening and discovered the old gods while assembling Der Nachtmahr.