Review: The Nightmare (2015)

I thought I’d take a short break from reviewing old movies and instead turn my attention toward a much more recent release: The Nightmare, a documentary about sleep paralysis and all the strange things that happen to people who experience it.

Directed by Rodney Ascher, The Nightmare isn’t as much of a documentary as I thought it would be. It follows the stories of eight individuals haunted by night terrors like the Old Hag and Hat Man — they wake up in the middle of the night completely unable to move and terrified by visions of strange shadowy beings.

And, for what it’s worth, the visuals of their waking nightmares are very nice. In fact, the whole film looks cool — from the lighting to the scene composition to the glowing red-and-blue colors. I’d honestly like to see an actual horror film about this stuff using the same kind of imagery.

There are a few jump scares. We get to see a number of shadow people, including the Hat Man, “blobs of black,” and the somewhat silly laughing alien-like static creatures.

My problem with The Nightmare? It’s really only a collection of stories and personal accounts. Only very briefly does it touch upon any scientific explanations for what’s happening. For the most part, the film focuses on the possible spiritual and paranormal causes.

This is perfectly fine, but also makes the film lack any kind of substance, in my opinion.

I suppose a documentary like this has more to offer those who have actually experienced sleep paralysis. I never have (and never want to). For someone on the outside of that experience, it’s just a collection of spooky stories visualizing that terror.


Rob Schwarz

Writer, blogger, and part-time peddler of mysterious tales. Editor-in-chief of Stranger Dimensions.