It's the documentary about night terrors that will be sure to give you night terrors. Such is the reputation Rodney Ascher is surely hoping for with his latest dramatised documentary, detailing the sinister subject of sleep paralysis.
For the uninitiated (careful: if The Nightmare is to be believed, just reading this synopsis should be enough to cause it), sleep paralysis is a disorder which plagues many a sleeper – a waking nightmare, so to speak. The most common experience being of a shadowy figure (often wearing a hat, sometimes not) standing in the corner of one's room, slowly approaching. Occasionally, he (or she – it can also take the form of an old hag, although this is never explored here) is accompanied by minions, like a hellish Blue Man group or, well, Gru and his Minions.
Part talking head film, part Crimewatch dramatisation, The Nightmare is certainly effective, with screenings reporting audience members screaming in their seats and experiencing paralysis of their very own once tucked up in bed afterwards. The audience at FrightFest, obviously, being made of tougher stuff, where one chap was noticed to be napping through the film. Whether he experienced a visit from The Shadow Man remains to be seen. This combination of talking heads and dramatisations works particularly well, like a real-life Sinister or Insidious. There are jump scares aplenty, as well as a slowly encroaching sense of dread which hangs heavy for long after the film ends. The universal nature of nightmares (we've all had 'em, paralysis or no) means that this sense of horror hits hard, particularly during the more quietly surreal moments (one particular phone call is especially chilling).
Still, there's the same faint bullshitty whiff to it that accompanied Ascher's majestically pretentious Room 237, and its repeated insistence that sleep paralysis can be caused simply by hearing about sleep paralysis feels particularly desperate. While there's no doubt that some will be so affected by The Nightmare, for the most part, it's as likely to give you bad dreams as an episode of Countryfile. Well, maybe a couple.
THE NIGHTMARE / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: RODNEY ASCHER / STARRING: SIEGFRIED PETERS, STEPHEN MICHAEL JOSEPH, YATOYA TOY, NICOLE BOSWORTH / RELEASE DATE: TBC