The Nightmare (2015, Rodney Ascher)

Self-reflexive documentary interviewing a few people who suffer from sleep paralysis, during which they feel like they’re awake but unable to move and being tormented by malevolent entities in their room. Ascher’s movies are always a pleasure to watch – the sound, editing, and reenactment footage are all great here. It includes occasional behind-the-scenes footage – slates, the camera resetting for a creepy move behind a wall, the “entity” actors prepping a shot – as if to remind us that they’re reenactments.

Arguably not a horror movie, but it’s the first movie since Candyman that I’ve been afraid would follow me out of the screen into the real world, since some people begin experiencing sleep paralysis after hearing stories about it. Therefore it is one of the most effective horror movies ever. Also disturbing in the way that it ends – one sufferer finds Jesus and quits having nightmares, the others have some ideas but it seems like their torment is still ongoing.

A. Nayman for Cinema Scope:

[Ascher] suggests that the sorts of visions common to sleep paralysis are actually deeply embedded in the collective subconscious. Exactly how they got there in the first place is a question that The Nightmare doesn’t really try to answer, but its entire M.O. is baldly provocative. Like the haunted TV broadcasts in Ascher’s beloved Halloween III: Season of the Witch or the cursed videotape in The Ring, it’s a film that means to infect its audience with its imagery.