Have you ever experienced an evil presence and there was nothing you could do about it? The Nightmare is a documentary-horror directed by Rodney Ascher (Room 237) who became interested in the topic of sleep paralysis after experiencing it himself. After noticing patterns of similar experiences through his research, this led him to making this documentary.
Sleep paralysis occurs when the body is either on the cusp of sleep or in the transition of waking up. A person is conscious but realises that they cannot move, and it is generally followed by hallucinations that can be terrifying to endure.
The Nightmare probes into the real-life experiences of 8 individuals and their varying degrees of sleep paralysis activity. This isn’t the usual talking heads style documentary with experts trying to explain what causes sleep paralysis. Instead The Nightmare is driven by the narrative of the people in a conversational manner in their own homes. Their recounts are strengthened with re-enactments to supply the fear factor that is often experienced with sleep paralysis.
The interviewees explain that many popular horror movies like A Nightmare on Elm Street, Communion and Insidious all take elements of the sleep paralysis experience; generally inspired by the folklore from all over the world in all cultures throughout history explaining the same archetypes and sensations.
What lets this film down slightly is the clunky cinematography and editing, making it repetitive and disjointed in parts. Don’t let this distract from the overall theme however. As someone who has experienced sleep paralysis since childhood, the stories and re-enactments are uncomfortably real; and for those who are fortunate enough to have never experience sleep paralysis, The Nightmare offers an accurate insight into the phenomenon.
It will leave the audience to ponder: is it purely psychological? Psychological? Or is it perhaps a metaphysical phenomenon that cannot be explained by science alone? The scariest part though? It could happen to anyone at any point in their lives.
Reviewed by Adriana Allman
Rating out of 10: 7
The Nightmare will be released on DVD on 29 October 2015.