A look at a frightening condition that plagues thousands; sleep paralysis.
From that particular synopsis, and the fact that IMDB and Wikipedia both confirm it, you might be thinking that this movie a documentary. Especially coming from “documentarian” Rodney Ascher (Room 237, which was bullshit too by the way), it would be a reasonable expectation that The Nightmare would also be a documentary. Not just a documentary, but a documentary about something that is probably a truly terrifying experience: sleep paralysis.
The film follows eight people suffering from sleep paralysis, night terrors and just your regular old run of the mill nightmares. With that being said, the word “paralysis” isn’t spoken until 15 minutes into the movie, so many of the stories of these people’s experiences are from when they were between 1 and 5 years old. I don’t know about you, but my memories of my crib and infancy are hazy to say the least. Yet, these people have VIVID memories of being “visited” in their cribs and plenty of other things that I don’t think fit into the things that are credible for a documentary.
Also hurting this film’s credibility is the complete absence of doctors, scientists, experts, or anyone who wasn’t suffering from, and reading a lot into, these sleep disorders. There is absolutely no information provided about sleep paralysis or other sleep disorders from anyone’s perspective but the 8 people who believe that there is more going on here than their doctors are telling them.
Seriously, one of the subjects says “I don’t believe the, like, medical explanation …there has to be something more to it.”
All of the stories are presented as fact, complete with reenactments and there are absolutely no interviews with doctors, scientists or anyone who wasn’t suffering from, and convinced of the reality of, sleep paralysis induced hallucinations. They even claim that melatonin is the chemical responsible for paralyzing you while you sleep, which is… completely untrue if my recollection of first year psychology serves me right. There is just nothing substantial enough to call this a documentary, not even in the open text of the film. There is just no real information given about sleep paralysis in reality. Just in the imagined horrors of these 8 people, and the director. The director ALSO suffers from sleep paralysis you guys, definitely no bias there.
The documentary elements are just so absurd, one of the subjects compares sleep paralysis to an STD because he told a friend about it, and they started suffering from it. This is just what he says by the way, it’s not proven at all.
The one thing that I can say positively about this is that the reenactments actually do offer some satisfyingly creepy moments, and actually might have been a solid framework for a horror film. That could have worked, even presented as a mockumentary where everyone is up front about what the movie really is. That way you can work horror into the “documentary” parts of the film and created a really frightening experience. Instead, what we have is something you could call “a bunch of people talk about nightmares they had” more than a “documentary”.
The movie lacks all credibility, and where it might have succeeded as a piece of horror fiction, it completely and totally fails as a documentary. I know people have been saying “oh man, this was so fucked man, it fucked me up man” but you need to really think about it critically.
This movie is bullshit, and that’s really all I have to say about that.