Review 38: The Nightmare (2015)
I listen to a lot of film related podcasts, one of which is Battleship Pretension. I was listening to their movie journal, which is basically David and Tyler listed what films they’ve watched over the last week, and the documentary The Nightmare, which has a 73% Rotten Tomatoes CRITIC SCORE, was one David recently watch. He proclaimed it to be one of the scariest films he’s ever seen and that was enough to entice me to get my friend David to watch it on Netflix with me.
Director Rodney Ascher talks to eight people about their experiences with extreme nightmares where they wake up, but are unable to move or react to the things they are seeing. The film goes into sleep paralysis and there is definitely a common thread seen from people that appear to be completely disconnected. Not all of the subjects of the film have exactly the same dreams, but their stories are interesting enough.
The cinematography during the interviews is debatable, but the director definitely attempted to get some interesting shots of people speaking. The reenactments of the dreams that are being described in the interview are frightening. The shadow people, while likely an AP in a morph suit, really seem scary and the music and visual effects help add to a creepy atmosphere that rivals many horror films. The personification of the dreams make it feel all the more scary as the condition is legitimate and the fear of “this could happen to me” helps build the fear the director wants the audience to feel.
The interviews seem to have been randomly selected. A few of the people’s dreams seem to have nothing in common with the majority of others interviewed. One women seems to have had a ghostbuster-esque experience with a dream ghost and the reenactment for that is more ridiculous than scary. I’m not really sure how one could confirm that the people being interview are suffering from the same affliction and that they are not just crazy, but at least three of the people interviewed sounded like they were describing something rather different than the rest. This seems to subtract from the tone the director is trying to build.
The biggest flaw in the documentary about such a serious condition is the lack of any experts on the topic. There are no doctors interviewed to describe what sleep paralysis is and that really hurts the validity of what they are discussing. The only reference to the medical world was an internet search and the eight individuals explanations as to why they either didn’t see a doctor or their lack of satisfaction with the explanations they were given.
I’ll give into the fact that I’m generally a cynic, especially in the realm of supernatural type phenomena, but I do believe in sleep paralysis. The mind is an incredibly powerful entity that we barely understand. I think there is probably a scientific explanation that maybe hasn’t been discovered, but that side is not represented well in this film. Ascher clearly wanted to focus to be on the individuals and their experience with sleep paralysis, but with such an interesting topic especially with the trend that people who hear about sleep paralysis often end up experiencing it themselves, seems to be underselling his own premise by excluding the medical perspective on the subject.
The documentary is entertaining and was an easy watch, but I definitely left it feeling dissatisfied with the lack of substance give on such an intriguing topic. Nonetheless, the fear was in place and I found myself unwilling to fall asleep until exhaustion finally set in. Luckily, no nightmares plagued me at all and I woke up feeling rather refreshed. I give The Nightmare 5 out of 10 shadow men.