Rodney Ascher is the director who brought us Room 237, the documentary which unleashed a Pandora’s Box of theories around the hidden meanings and themes of Stanley Kubrick’s horror masterpiece The Shining. Now Ascher is back with a follow-up doc that is scaring the pants off Sundance audiences. Ascher’s The Nightmare is an exploration of the terrifying phenomenon of sleep paralysis, a nocturnal psychosis which traumatizes its victims for the rest of their lives. The symptoms are eerily similar around the world, and have been for thousands of years: “a flickering electrical current flowing through the body announcing the onset of a dreadful fever dream, and black, shadowy figures entering the bedroom petrifying the restless as they lay cogent in their incarcerated body watching pure evil take menacing steps closer and closer. Sometimes there’s a black-hatted shadow presence with ruby red demonic eyes. Other times it’s a black cat laying on the victim.”
In his review for Indiewire, Eric Kohn writes, “[The Nightmare] is one of the scariest documentaries ever.” He adds: “An opening title card announces Ascher’s intent to reveal eight victims as they recall the forces that ‘wait for them in the darkness,’ which encapsulates the creepy, illustrative power of the ensuing 90-minutes. Unlike Room 237, Ascher shows us his subjects as they discuss their nighttime encounters, though even in the talking head segments the eerie tone holds fast: Most of the interviews take place after hours, and some of them are in bedrooms, so that their stories never veer far from the realm where they’re experienced. Ascher drew on a number of resources, including online testimonials, to find a diverse set of voices from locations ranging from New York and Kentucky to the United Kingdom. The resulting impression from their overlapping recollections is the eerie sense of connectivity between their visions.”
Rolling Stone recently profiled The Nightmare as one of “The 25 Must-See Movies At Sundance 2015.” No word yet from Sundance on a distribution deal for the film, but for all the latest updates on the doc and its release be sure to follow The Nightmare on Facebook. You can watch a clip from The Nightmare below, and to learn more about sleep paralysis (which also manifests as “Old Hag’s Syndrome”) you can watch Channel 4’s documentary in full below.
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