A fascinating and genuinely creepy hybrid of documentary and horror film from the director of ROOM 237. THE NIGHTMARE offers inventively shot talking heads with eight different people who suffer from the same condition: Sleep paralysis. These men and women from around the U.S. (and, randomly, Manchester) share stories dating back to childhood of being powerless while confronted by terrifying imaginary night visitors.
Common amongst these are alarming figures known as “Shadow Men”, “The Hat Man” and even an anthropomorphic duo of non-human smiling ticklers. Ascher gets his subjects to vividly convey the terrifying pull of their experiences, but also recreates their nightmarish visions to alarming effect, while drawing parallels between the imagery and notable horror / sci-fi movies that have clearly been inspired by real-life accounts of sleep paralysis. Among these are COMMUNION, INSIDIOUS and, of course, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. Set, like ROOM 237, to a brilliantly unsettling, pulsing Jonathan Snipes score, it is beautifully evocative and nightmarish throughout.
Review by Steven West