One part horror film to two parts documentary, The Nightmare is the sophomore effort of filmmaker Rodney Ascher. Looking at the subject of sleep paralysis, he interviews several sufferers from the US and UK. Each of them has a tale to tale that interestingly contain similar elements including shadow men, tingling experiences and other hallucinations.
Not content to merely have them recollect their experiences, Ascher performs reconstructions of these events to provide a shared experience for the audience. And this is where The Nightmare lets itself down. Have you ever had to explain a nightmare to a loved one? You try and capture the fear and anxiety you felt. Whilst your friends will nod and tut in an emphatic fashion, you’re never sure they truly understand. That’s what it’s like watching The Nightmare.
We can sit there and go ‘oh I see’ and ‘that’s a shame’, but it means naught. We are no better to understanding these people and what they’re going through. The reconstructions themselves are, unfortunately, rather cheap and so moments of tension sometimes end up being unintentionally amusing.
As a result, The Nightmare is an interesting premise let down considerably by its execution.