The Nightmare Could Be 2015’s Scariest Documentary

Genre: Documentary  Director: Rodney Ascher Stars: Siegfried Peters, Steven Yvette, Age Wilson
Genre: DocumentaryDirector: Rodney AscherStars: Siegfried Peters, Steven Yvette, Age Wilson 



Simple synopsis: A look at a frightening condition that plagues thousands; sleep paralysis.


Very few movies have stuck with me beyond the SXSW Film Festival like the documentary The Nightmare has. Though not for everyone, Room 237 director Rodney Ascher crafts an effectively unsettling and extremely creepy documentary on sleep paralysis. I found this phenom riveting and was wide awake through most of the running time which is impressive considering I watched it during a midnight screening the day after traveling to Austin. It scared the audience and over 80% who stayed for the Q&A raised their hand to admit to experiencing something similar to this happening to them in their sleep (including me). When the poster was released last week, it stirred something inside me. The Nightmare had quite the impact on me and this poster brought up memories of 2:45am morning walks to my friends house the night I watched it. Below is the poster:





Ick. So now I feel inspired to write a full review of it. What makes The Nightmare engaging is how convincing the testimonies and re-enactments are. And these stylized reenactment scenes of shadowy figures stalking and attacking people in bed masquerades as a goosebump-inducing horror film. Cutting to interviews of eye witness accounts enhances the tension. Unlike Room 237, we actually see the people being interviewed talking which was a frustrating gimmick from Mr. Ascher’s previous movie. These numerous stories amp the fright factor. There is a terrifying moment during the doc about a couple in bed seeing almost the same thing in different shapes. He saw a shadowy figure standing over their bed with red eyes as she watched a red eyed cat standing on his chest! Same demonic presence, but in a different form. Another scene involves a young man awaking from a nap and taking a phone call which has haunted my mind for a while now. You witness people re-call (and actually re-enact) some of the most intense moments of their life.


The choice of making a documentary like The Nightmare in the style of a horror film was rather unique. There are scientific explanations to the shadowy visions people see, but others have unexplainable and sinister encounters. Skipping the science of sleep paralysis for the spooky and supernatural, The Nightmare is some terrifying stuff. At the same time, I found the subject matter re-living these horrific events to be somewhat empowering. We see some people overcome their physiological or actual demons. One person even called Jesus name and the figures left to never return. Likewise, another individual was praying during an attack and nothing has changed for them. Different things happen to various people. It is through their testimonies that viewers get a glimpse of terror which lingers when we try to sleep. You get the sense that we will never be re-assured if this will happen to us or not.


The Nightmare is screening at the Stanley Film Festival in Estes Park May 1st and the 2nd. (More information on that cool horror film festival put on by the Denver Film Society at the Stanley Hotel that inspired The Shining here.)


Dare to watch when The Nightmare opens theatrically and on VOD June 5th!



I rate The Nightmare an 8 out of 10.


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About Kenny Miles

Whether something is overlooked by Hollywood or whatever business trend has captured the Entertainment Industry’s attention, Kenny Miles loves to talk about movies (especially the cultural impact of a film). He covers various aspects of movies including specialty genre films, limited release, independent, foreign language, documentary features, and THE much infamous "awards season." Also, he likes to offer his opinion on the business of film, marketing strategy, and branding. He currently resides in Denver, Colorado and is a member of the Denver Film Critics Society critics group. You can follow him on Twitter @kmiles723.

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