The Nightmare review

The last thing you probably ever want to see is a literal recreation of your deepest, darkest nightmares. In The Nightmare, director Rodney Ascher (Room 237) has done just that. The film explores the condition commonly referred to as “sleep paralysis.” That’s a condition where someone is in bed, but totally physically immobilized. Some who suffer from the condition – including the eight subjects in this documentary – feel they are visited by something evil during these periods. Ascher lets these subjects tell their stories, then we watch them play out on screen. It’s absolutely horrifying, if not wholly rewarding. Read more of our The Nightmare review below.

The Nightmare uses much of the energy and technique that Ascher displayed in Room 237, his documentary about people obsessed with Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. He uses voiceover and there’s a lot going on visually, both in the frame and with the frame itself. The main difference between the films is that here, we see the subjects. Ascher is frequently on screen himself, interacting with these people. He speaks to them in their homes, and often in their bedrooms, where they’ve experienced some of the most terrifying things imaginable.

As each successive sleep paralysis story unfolds you’ll begin to see a pattern. Some people have the same physical sensations. They describe visitations from eerily similar beings. Sometimes, the stories are predictable; other times they take unimaginable twists and turns. Events happen that are so insane you’d swear they were fake. Maybe they are; but maybe they are not. Ascher’s film never judges these people for their experiences. It just wishes to present them. And Ascher’s recreations bring those descriptions and visions to life on screen. The Nightmare is almost a monster movie in that way.

The biggest problem with The Nightmare is, even at only 90 minutes or so, it gets repetitive. No one really has any answers. There’s no big revelation. After the 5th or 6th time these people are visited by the same spirits, it feels a little repetitive as an audience member, especially without a big payoff. But the stories are incredibly interesting, very scary, and mostly unpredictable. Ascher presents them in a very unique, entertaining way.

The Nightmare is an off-beat horror tale that rides the line between reality and fiction. There’s a good chance it’ll make it hard for you to sleep.

/Film rating: 7 out of 10

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