Have you ever had a nightmare? The kind where your darkest and deepest fears are played out in font of your very eyes and there is nothing you can do to stop them. You can’t run, you can’t scream and you can’t wake up. Welcome to Rodney Ascher’s amazing documentary, welcome to The Nightmare.
Focusing on eight individuals suffering from the very real and very scary syndrome called sleep paralysis the film journeys through their day and night life detailing how they live with the phenomenon.
Sleep paralysis causes people to become frozen between wakefulness and sleep causing them to become unable to move and speak even effecting their breathing and always accompanied by visual and auditory hallucinations that they are paralysed to escape from.
Most imaginatively and most horrifically The Nightmare brings each individuals catalogue of night terrors into reality to try and give the audience a glimpse into what a eerie experience every evening can be.
Each of the eight people have very different experiences and stories to tell as well as theories on why and what their dreams mean from spiritual or alien encounters to alternate realities to the immense power and potential of the mind.
All of them are truly haunted by their horrors and the emotional, physical and mental torment they have been through is made very evident giving the film a tragic human element beyond the sensational scares of their stories.
From extremely early memories of childhood traumas of talking TV’s to visitations from smily faced aliens outside their baby cribs right up to their adult nightmares filled with sounds of hell, torturous metal examination devices, hooded figures and black sludge the myriad of dread is played out in front of our eyes and made all the more fearful because we know someone really went through it.
Although all the interviewees have their own stories and nightmares there are some features which pop up again and again in each of them most interestingly the shadow men which all eight have experienced. The film delves into this commonality looking at ancient myths and legends shared across the world even looking at horror movies like Nightmare on Elm Street and Insidious which leaves the viewer wondering if there is a deeper linked human experience or proof of something more supernatural.
Rodney Ascher, whose last documentary was the brilliant and highly original look at the many interpretations of The Shinning Room 237, is a visionary director and The Nightmare is the perfect balance of factual interviews and excellently realised dream sequences both of which compliment each other and accentuate the power and impact of the film.
The testimonials of the dreamers would be terrifying enough but when combined with their own sketches and the nightmares themselves which we see in detail with some excellent effects it makes for one of the most unsettling films I have seen in a long time and definitely one of the most disturbing documentaries ever made.
A sensational documentary and by far one of the most scary films you will see this year Ascher continues to reinvent the documentary genre and bring a whole new spin to horror. Watch this film now but don’t except to sleep well ever again.