The Nightmare (2015)

Siegfried Peters, Steven Yvette, Yatoya Toy, Nicole Bosworth
A look at a frightening condition that plagues thousands; sleep paralysis.
Part documentary, part thriller, The Nightmare works just well enough in both respects to deliver a uniquely disturbing viewing experience.
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  • 05 Jun 2015 Released:
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Speculation Run-amok1/10
From the creators of Room 237 (excellent doc) comes stories of sleep paralysis. If you're into 90min of hearing about someone else's dreams, then go for it! If not, then this will seem like pure tedium with hack visuals to match.

If you find this film scary, then save yourself some time and just type in "horror" into your Netflix or Amazon search box, and watch anything that pops up.

Calling this film a documentary is a stretch, as there is zero professional medical info or research about the subject whatsoever. Instead, we get story after story of hyperbolic romanticized experiences during the least credible time in your life; as you drift off to sleep.
If you are looking for an informative documentary on sleep paralysis, go somewhere else. The interviews in this film feel scripted and unbelievable, there is little to no scientific information or expert opinion on the phenomenon, and halfway through it begins focusing on the suggestion that these dreams could be caused by demons and can be stopped by prayer or by chanting Jesus' name.

There is some decent cinematography and horror imagery though. It could have been a cool documentary if it had actually been a documentary. I was quite interested in the topic beforehand and came out of this film very disappointed.
Inside the minds of the nightmare afflicted8/10
Sleep paralysis is a variety of dream which can seize a person prisoner in a ghoulish and tactile hallucination. "The Nightmare" profiles a dozen such severely afflicted individuals and invites you into their brains.

The recorded medical history of the disorder is touched upon in brief, only long enough to establish the subject's credibility. It's not a phenomenon that's been approached with much clinical discipline, and medical history is ostensibly not what this is a film about. It is instead fascinated with the experience itself, and the life these people lead.

Mostly the movie plays out through vivid dramatizations of dreams recounted in voice-over. It gets hella scary as the volume of awful steadily rises. A common vocabulary of bad things runs through it all, which amounts to elemental nightmare fuel.

This builds to the question of how his interviewees deal with their worsening condition. This film takes folks on an extreme of human experience and examines how they and then perceive their reality. What if sleeping meant you were attacked by demons? Would you explain it with cognitive science? Christianity? New age spiritualism? The film is patient enough to listen with interest and a sort of apathy to concrete answers.

It isn't perfect. Particularly there's some intentional fourth wall breaking-behind the scenes that's labored and distracting. And there's one dream recreation technique of photo slide show that isn't as hot as the rest.

But a unique experience of a documentary. Just watch it at night in the dark, don't be a chicken ;)
Opinions, experiences, not necessary a traditional documentary6/10
This is a movie with interviews with people having sleeping disorders described as "Sleep paralysis", a subject studied but certainly not yet enough, or, perhaps, the knowledge is not substantial enough to very exactly what the therm, or condition, actually is.

Where is the line to be drawn between "regular" nightmares, which can be truly terrifying, realistic and actually ruin peoples lives, and more "direct" experiences of attacks connected with sleeping stages and different peoples mental states, caused by stress, traumatic experiences (known or unknown)?

Many opinions about this documentary, or what you prefer to label it, is "there's just a dude telling a dramatic story about seeing strange things when going to sleep, it's not real or scientific!" Well, take it for that then, and go in to this for what it is, in this case not a bunch of medical psychiatric professionals/professors stating what is actually possible or not, and not facts and proofs.

It is well made though, compared to many other "documentaries" dealing with things not easy to scientifically prove. The people interviewed seems to give a true statement, as good as they can, of their experiences, and it's not accompanied by any dramatic narrator trying to push a certain theory as "THE Fact".

It is actually quite scary hearing about these (real) peoples experiences, compared to plain fiction. I have friends who during stressful/painful episodes in their lives have experienced the very disturbing feeling of "dreaming while awake", so to speak, but that has always seemed purely connected to the fact that it is possible to have moments/lapses in rem-sleep, dreaming, and being completely awake. If you ask around, I'm sure many people can refer to some personal episode that's connected to this, and it is also how many medical professionals choose to describe it as. Several people I have talked with, having had complex heart surgery, for example, has had some of these kind of feelings afterwards. NOT, however, "beings" terrorizing them.

Then there is the point "what you feed the mind with is what it will circulate around", and I mean certainly there is a connection in these kinds of experiences, as well as other strange happenings, that if you open your mind up to certain influences, it can affect you. That does not take a doctor to understand. I don't put a judgment in these particular cases concerning that.

The scary parts in these stories is more related to actual strong perceptions of physical attacks from something, such as strong pain, voices, "beings" seemingly terrorizing/stalking them at night on such a regular basis. These experiences is not much commented by medical science (yet), because professionals studying it is very careful where to draw the line (not to ruin their careers, maybe...).

For example, a leading professor can state that "there is probably multiple universes", but the same one would be careful to say "there is likely beings from other dimensions that can hurt you while you sleep".

So, take it for what it is...
Flawed But Effective5/10
The Nightmare (2015)

** 1/2 (out of 4)

Interesting documentary that caused quit the stir at the Sundance Film Festival. This documentary interviews eight different people from around the globe who all suffer from the same thing: sleep paralysis. Through their spoken words and re-enactments, we see their haunting visions as they go to sleep and find themselves unable to move and possibly be visited by demons.

THE NIGHTMARE is yet another horror movie that has come along and has many calling it the scariest movie since (fill in the horror movie name). Director Rodney Ascher, who previously made the bizarre THE SHINING documentary ROOM 237, manages to bring his rather unique and original vision to this tale, which is part documentary and part horror movie.

There's no question that the subject matter makes for a very interesting documentary and I found a lot of the stories to be fascinating. I mean, most people go to sleep to rest and find some sort of peace so just imagine if you dreaded going to sleep knowing that something terrifying and evil was about to visit you. Some of the stories told are pretty effective including one man who remembers as far back as being in a crib and seeing two figures standing over him.

Shadow people are mentioned throughout the documentary as several of the people claim to have encountered them. They talk about these dark, shadow figures who approach them and of course the people are pretty much unable to move so there's nothing they can do to stop it. I think one of the flaws with the film is that we're really given no information on what this could be. There's a lot of speculation on what it exactly is but perhaps a sleep expert being interviewed would have helped.

Another problem I had with the film is that the best stories are told right at the front when we're introduced to the character. After hearing their initial stories, what follows isn't nearly as effective and this is a 100-minute movie. Without any "outside" interviews, the stories become somewhat boring after a while so as a documentary it would have been nice throwing something else into the mix.

With that said, THE NIGHTMARE is certainly worth watching once as there are some effective moments.